(KCPW News) Utah and Nevada officials are finalizing an agreement to share the water in an aquifer below the Snake Valley, straddling the state line. It would wrap up years of negotiations, but some environmental groups think the agreement is coming too soon. Steve Erickson with the Great Basin Water Network says the state should wait two years for a ruling on a controversial pipeline project to bring water to the Las Vegas region.
“There’s no point in folding our tent here so soon. And there’s a lot that’s going to take place here in the next two years, including an election. And much can change, just as it has changed economically in the last year, for Las Vegas,” Erickson says. “So, there really is no urgency to this.”
Erickson says within the next two years, the state could see the outcomes of several lawsuits, rulings on water resources in nearby valleys, the environmental impact statement for the Snake Valley pipeline project, and the results of a scientific study on the aquifer, which are still pending.
But Utah Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Mike Styler believes the state should move forward with the agreement. He says all it does is define Utah’s right to the water, and add new protections.
“We’ve always said Nevada can do what they want to with their own water rights, but they can’t have Utah’s water rights,” Styler says. “And this agreement defines what is Utah’s and what Nevada cannot dip into.”
Styler says the agreement is not premature because it can be adapted and anticipates that new information will come forward. He says it could be ready for public comment in August or September, and may be signed by the end of the year.