Could Utah and Nevada Go to Court over Great Basin Water?

Aug 6, 2012

The director of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, Pat Mulroy, is threatening to take the state of Utah to the U.S. Supreme Court over an agreement to allocate groundwater in the Snake Valley on the Utah-Nevada state line.  The statement was made in an e-mail to members of SNWA's board of directors.  The agreement was required by federal law before a pipeline could be built carrying water from the Great Basin to Las Vegas.  

The Bureau of Land Management has recommended a right-of-way for the pipeline within Nevada, but it's left out the Snake Valley.  Mike Styler, the director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources, doesn't think Utah has much to worry about.

"In order to get a dispute between the two states to the U.S Supreme Court," Styler tells KUER, "you'd have to show damage.  And I think Nevada would be in a very difficult position to show any damage that's been caused to them by the state of Utah."

Styler says Governor Gary Herbert has asked a panel of water attorneys to take another look at the agreement negotiated three years ago, which was signed by Nevada authorities by not by Utah.  Once he gets their report, Styler says they'll either sign the existing deal or try to negotiate a new one.

Critics of the pipeline project say the environmental effects of pumping massive amounts of groundwater from the Great Basin will likely be felt on both sides of the state line.