Water authorities in Las Vegas want to build a 275-mile pipeline to pump groundwater from upstate Nevada valleys to Sin City. The project would cost an estimated $15.5 billion, according to a new study. That's a considerable sum, even for high rollers, but the new study concludes that Las Vegas could afford the project, though it would double residential water bills to about $90 a month.
What the financing study does not tally is the environmental cost. Sucking 184,655 acre-feet of groundwater per year from the aquifers beneath arid central and eastern Nevada could cause plant life on the surface to die and clouds of dust to blow all the way to Utah's Wasatch Front. Water is precious in the West, and nowhere more so than in Nevada and Utah.
That's why it is critical for Westerners to learn to conserve the water they have and get by on it, rather than try to tap sources of groundwater or surface water that are already overallocated. By that we mean that there already are more rights allocated for the water than there is actual water available.