A judge in Nevada dealt a major blow Wednesday to the plan to pump groundwater from valleys in the Great Basin to Las Vegas.
The ruling by Judge Robert Estes of Nevada’s 7th District Court in Ely stops the Southern Nevada Water Authority from using water rights in four Great Basin Valleys – Delamar, Dry Lake, Cave and Spring Valleys. It also says the project could cause environmental and social damage in Snake Valley, on the Utah-Nevada state line.
Simeon Herskovits, a lawyer representing the groups challenging the project, says the judge determined the plan involves mining groundwater – pumping water that’s been in underground aquifers for hundreds or even thousands of years.
“It was effectively a holding by the judge that this was a gigantic water mining project," Herskovitz tells KUER, "and therefore it was unsustainable, would have unacceptable types of impacts on water rights holders and the environment, and couldn’t be permitted under Nevada water law.”
Officials with the Southern Nevada Water Authority issued a statement following the ruling, saying they’re pleased the judge didn’t disturb the bulk of the State Engineer’s findings. They say they’re confident they can meet the judge’s requirements as the organization reapplies for the water rights.
The Nevada State Engineer and the Southern Nevada Water Authority have 30 days to appeal the ruling to Nevada’s Supreme Court.