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Snake & Spring Valley Aquifer Water Conservation (NV)

by Devil's Hole pupfish Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2008 at 8:49 AM

There are several reasons to avoid the proposed pipeline project diverting water from the Snake and Spring Valley aquifers to the Las Vegas region as planned by Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA). This report will provide background information as to the physical and geological characteristics of the two aquifers mentioned above, including ecological components most likely affected by potential overdraft from the SNWA pipeline.





Some background on the formation of these two aquifers will help with understanding why withdrawal of large amounts of water is not in the best interest of the public if maintaining the long term viability of the aquifers if the goal. The aquifers fall into the eastern region of the Great Basin hydrological and geological province, characterized by inland draining water systems that never reach the ocean. The local setting is nearby the Southern Snake Range of the Great Basin, where drainage divides make additional boundaries in and around this region known for internal drainage. All water in this region either sinks into saline lakes, sand fill or disappearing streams. Generally precipitation varies from between 4-30 “, depending on elevation. This topographic desert is influenced by the Sierra Nevada collecting moisture on its windward side, leaving less moisture for the Great Basin (Tuttle, 523).

The Snake Valley stretches from south to north east of the Snake Range, known for its year round glacier on Wheeler Peak, also home to Great Basin National Park (GBNP). The downwards tilting of bedrock from Wheeler Peak to Snake Valley allows the older Prospect Mt. quartzite (metamorphosed sandstone) to crop out at higher elevations than younger shale and limestone layers underneath (Orndorff, 225). The Prospect Mt. quartzite resists erosion better than limestone and shale, most noticeable in the rocky peaks of the glacial region. In undisturbed sequences of sedimentary rocks, the oldest are usually on the bottom, with younger layers found above. In the Snake Range, the youngest layer is Pole Canyon limestone found at lower elevations, while the oldest layer is Prospect Mt. quartzite found at the highest elevations. This is contrary to expectations of geological norms, as faulting tilted the stack of layers to the east as it rose. Exposed limestone outcrops at Lower Lehman Creek campground in GBNP shows layers dipped down towards the east (Orndorff, 226). The combination of uplift, tilting and erosion gives the Snake Range and Valley its unique “upside down” geological formation.

The geology of the Snake Range is a north-south trending fault block mountain range 150 miles long. The Snake Range is not symmetrical and is steeper on the west side, tilted downwards towards the east and southeast. Vertical displacement is hard to guess as faults around the range are buried by deep gravel fill, deposited from eroded parent material of the higher peaks. Horizontal thrust faulting, also known as decollement, pushed younger beds over and above older beds, with upper layers trending east by northeast compared to lower layers (Tuttle, 526).

The uplift and tilting of the Snake Range in contrast to the dropping of the Snake Valley result in five distinct ecological zones of vegetation from lowest to highest elevation;

1) Sage and pinyon-juniper

2) Manzanita and mountain mahogany

3) Aspen and Douglas fir

4) Engelmann spruce and pine

5) Alpine plants above tree line and bristlecone

In addition to the ecological zones determined by elevation, there are also hydrological variations founf in springs and seeps that influence biodiversity descended from ancient fish that once inhabited ancient Lake Bonneville. Both Spring Valley and Snake Valley surrounding the Snake Range were once pluvial lakes during wetter climate conditions. The Snake Valley was the western arm of prehistoric Lake Bonneville (Tuttle, 523). Spring Valley is located directly west of the Snake Range and was considered an isolated lake system.

Geologists who studied ancient Lake Bonneville have grouped the various regions into two separate systems. Bonneville system # 1 is considered stretching from its eastern boundary of the Wasatch Range to the southeastern division from the Green and Colorado River watersheds. On the northeastern section the Bear, Weber and Jordan River watersheds enter the remnant of Bonneville in the Great Salt Lake, further south from the Provo River into Utah Lake and the Sevier River into Sevier Lake (Houghton, 201). In addition Bonneville system # 1 includes several isolated basins; Little Salt Lake, Pine Valley (Lake Pine or Lake Wah Wah), and from Lake Wah Wah possible connections to the Snake Valley Arm and Escalante Desert Arm (Houghton, 202). There is some dispute between geologists whether the Snake Valley arm of Lake Bonneville was truly isolated or a western portion connected to the Lake that was occasionally isolated during drops in the water levels of Lake Bonneville.

Bonneville system #2 is considered anywhere else that Great Salt Lake and former Lake Bonneville once covered, from the Escalante Valley, Sevier Desert, Snake and White Valleys, Great Salt Lake desert, Cache Valley and other smaller valleys (Houghton, 223). Other watershed regions nearby are grouped into the category of Central Great Basin, anywhere south of the Humboldt River, west of ancient Lake Bonneville, northwest of the Colorado River, and northeast of Death Valley (Houghton, 183).

The Snake Range formed the western boundary of Lake Bonneville. One more valley to the west, Spring Valley, located in between the Snake and Schell Creek Range had a long, narrow pluvial lake, 60 miles long and 5.5 miles wide, averaging 265 ft. deep, known as Lake Spring. Our current precipitation average is 8” on the valley floor, 30” in the mountains with a rate of evaporation at 44”/yr. For “Lake Spring” to return, a 30% decrease in evaporation rate and 8” overall increase in precipitation is required. For Lake Spring to overflow its basin, the depth would need to be 500 ft and an area filling 36% of the basin. The only water loss was from evapotranspiration, there was no exit from Lake Spring. Spring Creek on northern end of Spring Valley and some small springs nearby contain native fish (Houghton, 187).

Subsurface water under gravels of the deep valleys are saturated reservoirs, coming to the surface as springs and seeps when reservoirs are full, some forming small lakes (Fiero, 170). The Snake Valley contains several fish that evolved from ancestors that once inhabited ancient Lake Bonneville. Several endangered and threatened species of these fish depend on a full aquifer under Snake Valley to discharge water up to the surface in the form of springs and seeps. The aquifer can only keep these springs and seeps replenished with water when it is at or near its fullest levels. Removal and transport of Snake Valley aquifer water to a far away location like Las Vegas will result in drought conditions for these springs and seeps, and thus risk extinction of the endangered and threatened fish. One such fish known to be at risk is the least chub (Iotichthys phlegethontis), a small minnow known to reside in the Snake Valley Aquifer. The original range of the least chub in the Bonneville Basin was Great Salt Lake, Utah Lake, Beaver River, Parowan Creek, Clear Creek and the Provo River (Sigler, 182). Currently they can be found around Leland Harris Spring of the Snake Valley, on the Utah side in Juab and Millard Counties. Until recent times populations of the least chub were abundant, though habitat degradation from livestock trampling have reduced them to their present status of endangered (Sigler, 182-3). The conditions at Leland Harris Springs that support the least chub could be altered by lowered water table from aquifer overdraft. The least chub prefer semi-alkaline springs with clear creeks and slow rivers. L.H. Spring has supporting vegetation also; algae, chara, duckweed, and watercress with bulrushes, cattails and sedges at the margin. Other plants found near the springs include; rabbitfoot grass, water parsnip, muskgrass, wire rush and motherwort. The pH was 8.0, oxygen at 4.5 ppm and total hardness at 120 ppm Calcium hardness at 63 ppm and alkalinity at 150 ppm. The depths varies from a few inches to 10 feet, with temps anywhere from 55-75 degrees Fahrenheit (Sigler, 184). All these conditions that the least chub has evolved an adaptation to over many centuries can be changed in only a few months if aquifer overdraft drops the water table. The same holds true for the Bonneville trout when it comes to the greatest threats, “Probably the most serious type of habitat degradation would be a lowering of the water table (Sigler, 184)”

Water diversions that lower the level of the aquifer remain the greatest long term threat to the least chub. In the case of ranching and livestock, all the water taken from the aquifer usually remains in the same aquifer overlay, and will eventually percolate down and recharge the same aquifer it was removed from. However, if the water is diverted to Las Vegas, there can be no more reentry f the diverted water to this aquifer and it remains lost forever (Muck, Native Fish Conservancy).

Other threatened and endangered species of fishes at risk from aquifer overdraft include the Bonneville cutthroat trout (Salmo clarki Utah Suckley) that is related to other cutthroat trout like the Lahontan (S. c. henshawi) and Paiute (S. c. seleniris Snyder) subspecies, all descended from trout that inhabited the ancient Lake Lahontan that formed Pyramid Lake. The Bonneville subspecies habitat ranges from Snake Valley, Pine Creek and east into the Thomas/Smith Fork of the Bear River. The Lahontan subspecies habitat ranges from the Truckee, Carson, and Walker Rivers including Pyramid Lake, Summit and Independence, mostly on the northern and western Basin and Range province (Sigler, 111). The distinction between the Bonneville subspecies occurred when the Bear River switched over into the Great Basin from the Snake River drainage 30,000 years ago. There are now three noticeable subgroups of the remaining Bonneville subspecies, with a distinct Bear River group and a Snake Valley group, the third group being a mix between the two (Sigler, 112-3). Any changes in the Snake Valley aquifer and spring fed streams can alter the balance of the Snake Valley group of Bonneville trout. According to Sigler, “The most serious threat is loss of habitat from reduced flows, degradation of water quality and changes in stream configuration.” (Sigler, 115). The trout prefer habitat with riffles and deep pools, also hiding under logs, shrubs and banks for cover. Their fry to best in streams with 40-60% pool areas, with banks and depth providing the young trout protection from predation (Sigler, 118). The planned extraction by SNWA would reduce the quality of the pools needed by the young trout for survival.

The underground water reservoirs are protected from evaporation by the thick gravel roof of sediment and fill from eroded material, stocked with remnant waters from Ice Age and replenished by inflowing subsurface waters. According to Bill Fiero, “Some reservoirs have undergone severe depletion due to overdrafting by wells.” Excess withdrawals from aquifers with far less recharge than during glacial times eventually leads to an overdraw and depletion of the aquifer. Hydrologic disasters can occur anywhere when water tables drop and springs dry up. The Devils Hole pupfish, also descended from Ice Age ancestors evolved to living in springs since the Great Basin lake system dried up long ago, was nearly made extinct after excess pumping lowered the water table. Smaller local wells also dry up as water table lowers, and then are dug deeper. Increased suction from deeper wells draws saline waters in from small pockets. As grains settle and compact, the aquifer loses pore space and effectiveness for future water holding capacity. Severe subsidence has occurred in the Las Vegas Valley from overexploitation of their aquifers (Fiero, 172). Repeating the same pattern of overexploitation in the Snake and Spring Valley aquifer system makes little sense from an ecological and hydrological perspective.

Overexploitation occurs when urban regions overdraw regional groundwater, allowing their population to expand. After years of overdraft the depleted groundwater basin is abandoned, though the larger population now has greater economic leverage to extract even more water from further away using the same methods of overexploitation (Fiero, 172). This pattern of growth dependant on additional aquifers targeted for overdraft is a losing scenario for everyone, especially the ecosystem that actually needs the aquifer full to survive.

Phreatophytes, or pump plants, are sensitive to changes in water depths and salinity, they can also determine water depth and quality. The presence of known phreatophytes in a region is usually an indication of where there is a significant underground water table or some subsurface movement of water like submerged streams. Underground movement of water can be effected by overdraft also, as water from one aquifer may leak into another as the neighboring aquifer is overdrawn. Water travels between aquifers underneath the mountains. Downward movement of water pressure slowly leaks into fractures and pore spaces in mountain bedrock. The mountain ranges are not barriers to underground water movement, as regional aquifer systems flow between valleys. Local systems have water for short time and are shallow, usually cool with low salinity (dissolved minerals) and dependant on rainfall and snow variation. Other regional systems can be geothermally warmed by flowing over the thin crust of the basin valleys, becoming more saline from more contact with rocks and dissolved minerals (Fiero, 172-3).

We are reminded that changes in one aquifer can effect others, especially when removing large quantities of water that were stored over long periods of time. What took thousands of years to fill up from the Pleistocene time of previous wetter climate conditions can be wasted and sucked dry by human overexploitation in only a few years.

“A Valuable legacy of the Pleistocene time is a reservoir of groundwater stored in the basin fill beneath lakebeds.” (Tuttle, 532)

The Snake and Spring Valley aquifer caverns beneath the layers of sediment and fill are most likely similar in geological composition to the Pole Canyon limestone found in Lehman Caves near the GBNP visitor’s center. The caverns of the underground aquifers are most likely metamorphosed limestone and covered with layers of sediment or fill eroded from the surrounding mountains. The reasoning behind this theory is supported by evidence found in the Lehman Caves themselves.

Lehman Caves are Pole Canyon Limestone solution caverns, dated Middle Cambrian in age. The cave passages are horizontal, though the limestone beds dip steeply. This tilting of the beds relative to horizontal hollow passages shows the caves formed after tilting and uplift in last 3-4 mya. According to Tuttle, “Base level and water table had more control of cave system than bedding planes in limestone.” The water that hollowed out the caves traveled horizontally through the matrix, showing the tilt in the passage walls (Tuttle, 528-9).

Another way of looking at this sequence of events is to step backwards in time and imagine what would happen if tilting happened after dissolution; the passageways would then also be tilted parallel with the slope of the faulting. Exposed limestone outcrops outside of the caves also tilt downwards and to the east. However, that doesn’t explain whether dissolution inside the caves happened before or after tilting. Most dissolution of limestone happens below the water table, where water fills pore spaces completely. When geological strata and water table are both horizontal layers, the dissolving limestone cavern passages are parallel to the water table. However, strata layers found in the Pole Canyon limestone of Lehman Caves tilts downwards and to the east, showing block faulting from 5 million years ago. If dissolution of limestone occurred prior to faulting, passageways would be parallel to water table and layering, then tilted along with the strata. Since the cave passages are horizontal, this evidence supports that dissolution of Pole Canyon limestone occurred after faulting and tilting of strata (Orndorff, 233).

The process of limestone dissolution by water over geological timeframes shows the geochemistry of the Snake and Spring Valley aquifers and Lehman caves are similar in many ways. The difference is mostly between the interactions of water, carbon dioxide (CO2) and air on exposed limestone. Pole Canyon limestone is considered a carbonate rock and exhibits certain reactions to water and air chemistry. Carbonate rocks from Paleozoic seas are abundant in eastern Great Basin and called shelf limestone (Fiero, 175).

Carbonates dissolve quickly in any water solvent. Since surface water and rain is rare in the Great Basin, exposed limestone outcrops stand undisturbed as vertical cliffs. However, below the surface groundwater acts to dissolve limestone at the foundation of the cliffs and further below into the caves and aquifers (Fiero, 167). Lehman Caves were dissolved by downward percolating water containing carbonic acid, enlarging small fractures into caverns. Though most of the tilting had occurred prior to the dissolution, some further uplift after dissolution combined with a drying of the climate eventually raised the caverns the above water table, causing some sections of the cave to collapse. “The roofs and walls of some of the rooms, freed from the supporting pressure of internal water, collapsed under their own weight.” (Fiero, 179) This also happened while the climate became drier, as the water table dropped even further and exposed most of the caverns to air, which reacts differently with limestone than water.

Since Pole Canyon limestone experienced low grade metamorphism, the carbonate grains dissolved and redeposited, compacting intergranular spaces. Pole Canyon limestone is considered low grade marble, though remains chemically a carbonate rock. The Talus Room of Lehman Caves shows scattered piles rubble, evidence of earthquakes 10-30 thousand years ago brought down the ceiling of the 280 foot room. Most of hollowing of the Talus room had occurred during moister Pleistocene time, when the caverns remained filled with water as an aquifer would. The groundwater percolated downward through fractures in quartzite rocks of Wheeler Peak until it reached the limestone, where dissolution could occur. After the drier climate dropped water table, air and evaporation in cave passages formed dripstone features of the caverns (Tuttle, 528-9). These dripstone features are called speleothems and show evidence of different chemical reactions between air and water on limestone.

The Lehman Caves are found within the Pole Canyon limestone strata, a calcium carbonate in the form of a calcite mineral. From 550 million years ago, the Cambrian ocean filled with shelled organisms formed sedimentary limestone rock (Orndorff, 230). “Limestone and marble, both carbonates, are especially susceptible to dissolution by water, especially water that interacted with atmosphere and soil. “ Water that has fallen through the atmosphere as rain and then percolated through the soil increases its content of CO2 and is called carbonic acid. The equation for carbonic acid formation appears as;

CO2 + H2O --> H2CO3

The complete dissolution of carbonate rock by carbonic acid appears as;

H2O + 2CO2 + CaCO3 --> Ca2+ +2HCO3-

With CaCO3 = Calcium carbonate (solid), Ca2+ = Calcium cation (dissolved) and HCO3- =

Dissolved bicarbonate anion (Orndorff, 231).

After the water table dropped below the caves, the disappearing water released its dissolved CO2 into the air of the caverns, and as the equation system shown above loses CO2, the reaction shifts in the opposite direction, and CaCO3 is crystallized into travertine and speleothem dripstone formations (Orndorff, 235). This is a typical reaction of other limestone or karst formations.

Karst describes a soluble rock landscape and drainage, based upon porosity (volume of empty space within rock) and permeability (fractures along bedding planes). Most limestone formations are described as a karst landscape. Since metamorphism recrystallized pore spaces in Pole Canyon limestone prior to dissolution by carbonic acid, the bedding planes and fractures in rocks above the limestone are the most likely reason for the formation of Lehman Cave passages. Most dissolution of caves happened during Pleistocene 2 million years ago – 10,000 years ago (Orndorff, 232).

The Snake and Spring Valley aquifers of today depend on remaining full to support the roof of the underground limestone caverns from the weight of sediment fill above. If the water is removed in large quantities by a pipeline, there is increased probability of aquifer cavern collapse. An example of this type of collapse that occurs once a limestone cavern is drained of water can be witnessed in the Talus Room of the Lehman caves in Great Basin National Park. The difference would be instead of a drier climate dropping the water table, human extraction and diversion would drop the water table. The limestone would not know the difference as to the cause, though would react the same from lack of water as a support system for the aquifer cavern roofs.

Other examples of sinkhole collapse and subsidence are often witnessed in Florida, where limestone and karst aquifer systems are frequently found. Though the limestone caverns in Nevada’s Snake and Spring Valley are slightly metamorphosed into a tighter matrix similar to marble, as carbonates they remain susceptible to erosion by air and collapse from overburden. The overburden is the sediment material and eroded fill from the nearby mountains that remain above the limestone aquifer caverns.

Of the three types of sinkholes, a collapse sinkhole occurs when there is a heavy and thick overburden as is the case in the Snake and Spring Valley. The cause for this sort of collapse is most often human activity, especially the withdrawal of large amounts of water from the aquifer, losing support of the ceiling by the water once below. The heavy overburden above then forces pressure onto the aquifer cavern roof and causes collapse. Once an aquifer cavern is collapsed, it cannot be repaired or “fixed” by human activity to its previous form. Nor will natural processes fix the aquifer once lost. Subsidence and solution sinkholes are less likely in this scenario as both have either thin or absent overburdens (FPA website).

While some sinkholes collapse and form lakes naturally in Florida, many more are caused prematurely by human activity, especially the withdrawal and diversion of large amounts of aquifer water, this effect is increased during times of drought. In a desert climate like Nevada, aquifer water kept underground will last longer than water in a sinkhole lake. The seeps and springs are water leaving from the aquifer in smaller amounts only when the aquifer is nearly full, so the effects of evaporation in this case are minimal. Collapse and subsidence of aquifers is a result of groundwater overexploitation.

According to the USGS, “In Las Vegas Valley, Nevada, ground-water depletion and associated subsidence have accompanied the conversion of a desert oasis into a thirsty and fast-growing metropolis.” (USGS, Fact Sheet 165-00)

This is not a prediction of what could happen, this is a statement of what already happened in the Las Vegas Valley following decades of aquifer overdraft. That SNWA is attempting to repeat the same mistakes expecting different results is the textbook definition of insanity. The same USGS Fact Sheet on subsidence listed above also states that;

“The compaction of unconsolidated aquifer systems that can accompany excessive ground-water pumping is by far the single largest cause of subsidence. The overdraft of such aquifer systems has resulted in permanent subsidence and related ground failures.”

In addition, the layers or aquitards above the limestone caverns are of sufficient aggregate thickness, and long-term groundwater table drops can result in a large scale release of “water of compaction” from the compacting aquitard layers, eventually showing as land subsidence. Alongside this release of water is a permanent reduction in the pore volume of the compacted aquitards, and thus a loss of the potential storage capacity of the aquifer system. This “water of compaction” cannot be restored by allowing water levels to return to their previous status prior to overexploitation. The extraction of water resources for short term economic gain should be considered “ground-water mining” in the truest definition of the term.” (USGS, Fact Sheet 165-00)

According to the BLM Jan. ’07 EIS newsletter, the SNWA pipeline plans to remove 200,000 acre/feet/year from the Snake and Spring Valley aquifer systems to Las Vegas and Coyote Springs. Here are some figures from the White Pine County Water Resources Plan of August 2006 that shows the quantity of water SNWA seeks to extract and remove from the entire aquifer system compared to the recharge and what percentage is remaining for wildlife in the seeps and springs, including local usage. Since SNWA seeks to obtain their quantities from ranching, the category of irrigation would include any remaining irrigation including what SNWA is claiming through their purchase of rancher’s water rights throughout the Snake and Spring Valleys.

Spring Valley – 275,158 acre-feet/year groundwater and 238,199 ac-ft/yr surface water

252,538 afa = irrigation (afa = acre feet annually)

4,226 afa = mining

20 afa = wildlife

Water use in acre-feet/yr; 84,187 = irrigation, 11,560 = mining, 99,668 = total

(WPCWRP, 27-8)

Snake Valley 25,000 ac-ft/yr perennial yield, basin extends into Utah to the east

67,006 afa groundwater and 44,888 afa surface water

24,489 afa = irrigation

5,430 afa = power

5,792 afa = wildlife

7,266 afa = other (WPCWRP, 29-30)

Of the 19 applications that are termed “Ready for Action with possible protest”, 8 are for local irrigation, 2 for municipal use and 9 for the Las Vegas Valley Water District through the proposed SNWA pipeline. According to the same report;

“White Pine County expressed concerns of negative impact from long term transfers through SNWA, proposal to export all unappropriated water from Spring and Snake Valley (most), including the purchase of water rights from ranches. Impacts include; loss of vegetation, loss of wildlife habitat, air quality (dust), senior water rights holders, ranchers wells dry up, 75 year term before SNWA re-evaluates project (WPCWRP, 49).

In 2004, the Basin and Range Carbonate Aquifer System (BARCAS) study was initiated by Federal legislation to determine the water quality and quantity of regional carbonate aquifers, with the intent to assess hydrogeologic processes that influence groundwater conditions. The BARCAS report lists the average recharge and discharge rates for several of the region’s aquifers. The balance in the Snake Valley favors the discharge side of the equation at 132,000 acre-feet and recharge at 111,000 acre-feet (BARCAS, Basin Recharge and Discharge section). The BARCAS report goes into further detail about three variations of carbonate limestone rock each with different characteristics of porosity; primary or intergranular porosity, fracture porosity, and vug or solution porosity. These variations in porosity can influence recharge and groundwater flow between basins. The report indicates that a thick layer of carbonate rock is needed to enable groundwater flow between the various basins, usually from west to east, or Spring Valley into Snake Valley. However, for all their extensive data collection, the studies authors remain neutral and absent of facts as to the conditions that would occur to the carbonate aquifer system if overexploitation by SNWA were to occur.

We who live near these aquifers cannot remain neutral nor can we allow urban regions like Las Vegas to engage in the same risky behavior of aquifer overdraft that led to the depletion of the Las Vegas Valley aquifer by enabling the SNWA pipeline access to additional aquifers. Unless the entire Great Basin region is willing to face a long term drought after all the regional aquifers collapse from overdraft, then the entire city of Las Vegas and also many other rural communities will be forced to do without access to aquifers after the SNWA depleted and caused compaction in what were once viable aquifers. According to the Committee on Valuing Groundwater;

“Aquifers in arid regions are frequently characterized by very small rates of recharge that range from a few hundredths of a millimeter per year to perhaps 200 mm/yr (Heath, 1983). Aquifers characterized by either the total absence of recharge or by very low rates of recharge cannot be relied upon as a sustainable source of water supply.” (CVGW, 34)

The Snake and Spring Valley aquifers both have relatively low recharge rates compared to what SNWA is planning on diverting far away from any potential recharge sites. In addition, the water rights SNWA has purchased from ranches that was formerly used for irrigation remained in the regional aquifer. The irrigation pumps removed water from directly below the same place that was irrigated, even if some quantity was lost to evaporation, the remainder percolated back into the groundwater table and could eventually contribute to recharge. This would not be the case when SNWA removes the water from the region entirely. Fortunately several activist groups have formed around this issue, including the Great Basin Water Network. From a recent article by Dean Baker;

“Sadly, the SNWA pipeline project is being proposed into areas that are already showing these impacts from underground water pumping. Snake Valley has had several springs dry up caused by pumping underground water. At one of these springs, Needle Point, a dozen wild horses died of thirst before anyone knew the spring was dry. There was no history of Needle Point Spring no flowing until underground water started being pumped about one mile away.

There is a large difference between this long term SNWA underground water mining project and past agricultural uses. The investment will be huge, multi-billions of dollars. People and businesses will become dependent on the water to live, making it impossible to shut the water off. This will cause the water to used as long as possible regardless of impact, thus creating the Legacy of the Southern Nevada Water Authority Pipeline.”

In addition, Baker questions the wisdom of growth at any cost as being pushed by Las Vegas planners, and the effects of this policy of uncontrolled population expansion fueled by water grabs for the cities residents;

“The pipeline project has negative aspects for Las Vegas citizens. Healthcare and education deteriorate with rapid growth. The project will create problems for the resort hotels and gaming industry. Their position of being the entertainment capital of the world should stay their #1 goal.

If Las Vegas continues to grow and become one of the largest cities in the West, it will be detrimental to the gaming and entertainment industry. There are already traffic, crime, air pollution, and other problems. If Las Vegas continues to grow in its present manner, all of these problems will only accelerate but with new problems like water shortages and more environmental challenges.

There is enough water for Las Vegas now. Why would there be a desire to endanger today's position as the entertainment capital of the world to simply bring in more population. The industry will then be part of creating the negative environmental legacy of the pipeline project.

It would appear that it would be much more logical for future growth to build in the manner of the MGM-Mirage City Center. This project is being construction in an environmental responsible manner with water conservation, both indoor and outdoor, as a major goal.

From the start of the EIS process to now, SNWA has already doubled the amount of water it wants from Snake Valley (from 25,000 to 50,000 acre feet), showing a glimpse of the future.” (Baker, GBWN)

The only realistic option for Las Vegas and other desert cities is developing an intense program of water conservation, making more with less. Leaving the aquifer water underground and only taking what is needed for drinking and bathing is the most logical option for people who would like to live in Las Vegas beyond the next few decades. Overdraft and aquifer depletion is the surest way to stop the potential growth of Las Vegas, though water conservation and xeriscaping gardens are the surest way to protect habitat both above and below the ground for people and the desert ecosystem.



References;

White Pine County Water Resources Plan Aug 2006

“Fishes of the Great Basin” by William F. Sigler & John W. Sigler UN of NV Press; Reno, NV 1987

“Geology of National Parks” 6th Edited by; Ann G. Harris and Esther Tuttle Published By; Kendall/Hunt Dubuque, Iowa 2003

Featured article; “Great Basin National Park” by Sherwood D. Tuttle UN of Iowa

“A Trace of Desert Water –The Great Basin Story” by Samuel G. Houghton Published By; Arthur H. Clark Co., 1976 Glendale, CA

“Geology of the Great Basin” by Bill Fiero Published By; UN of NV Press, Reno 1986

“Geology Underfoot in Central Nevada” by Richard L. Orndorff, Robert W. Weider, Harry F. Filkorn

Mountain Press Pub. Missoula, Montana 2001

BLM Newsletter Jan ’07 Clark, Lincoln, White Pine counties groundwater EIS

http://www.nv.blm.gov/GWProjects/index.htm

Valuing Ground Water: Economic Concepts and Approaches

Authors: Committee on Valuing Ground Water, National Research Council

Online text;

http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=5498&page=34

BARCASS Basin and Range Carbonate Aquifer System StudyUtah: Final report

Water Resources of the Basin and Range Carbonate-Rock Aquifer System (BARCAS), Eastern Nevada and Western Utah: Final report [Scientific Investigations Report 2007–5261]

http://nevada.usgs.gov/barcass/

http://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2007/5261/

USGS: Land Subsidence in the United States, USGS Fact Sheet-165-00 December 2000

http://pubs.water.usgs.gov/fs-165-00

Sinkhole Facts and Information

presented by: FLORIDA PUBLIC ADJUSTING

http://www.sinkholes.net/new_page_5.htm

“Least Chub Candidate Conservation” by Jim Muck

Endangered Species Bulletin: September/October 1999 Native Fish Conservancy

http://www.nativefish.org/articles/least.php



Great Basin Water Network “Legacy of the SNWA Pipeline” by Dean Baker 9/11/08

http://www.greatbasinwater.net/fray/fray_display.php?id=14

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