17 alternatives to the water pipeline proposed by Nevada

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Western Utah may have multidecade negative impacts from the water pipeline proposed by the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

Following are 17 other solutions for southern Nevada. Most of these options also have potential benefits for Lake Powell and Utah. All of these options can be less expensive and/or bring more water to southern Nevada.

* Farm water. One California farm district gets 10 times as much Lake Mead water as all of Nevada. If Nevada got a tiny percentage of this highly subsidized farm water, it could supply water needs for decades.

* Desalting. At least three new techniques may each reduce desalting costs by 75 percent. Based on historical trends, SNWA's pipeline cost estimate may increase by over 75 percent. Improved desalting has clear benefits for over a billion people with inadequate water.

* Air-to-water technology. Every day over 200 cubic miles of water evaporates into the atmosphere. There may be improvements in current air-to-water technology.

* Columbia River water. Israel has negotiated to buy imported water from a river in Turkey. Similarly, SNWA could transport water by tankers or large plastic bubbles from the Columbia to California, and then obtain a similar amount of California water from Lake Mead.

* Columbia River canal. A canal could supply many cities and wetlands with water. Unused water would go into Lake Mead.

* Other canal options. A canal from the Arkansas, North Platte, or the South Platte to the Colorado River. Once water from one of these rivers reached the Colorado, it is all downhill to lakes Powell and Mead.

* Five percent water reduction. Nevada politicians could urge the secretary of Interior to cut 5 percent of the water delivered to every Colorado River state. This sends a conservation message to every state, helps power production, helps lake recreation, helps lake water quality, helps wildlife and gives Nevada more time.

* Cloud seeding. Former Nevada Gov. Kenny Quinn said cloud seeding should be examined in the upper Colorado River basin.

* Buy from Mexico. Mexico owns five times as much water in Lake Mead as Nevada. Mexico may be delighted to temporarily sell some of this water.

* Desalting in Mexico. SNWA and the United States could finance a state-of-the-art desalting plant for any coastal city in Mexico. In exchange, Nevada gets an equivalent amount of Mexican water in Lake Mead.

* More water banking. SNWA could bank more water in Nevada aquifers, other states and Indian reservations.

* Buy river water. Upstream users have previously tried to sell water rights to downstream users. Some water may be for sale from upstream states and/or Indian reservations.

* Water conservation contest. Uncle Sam could buy Colorado River farmland water and then announce this new water will go to a large city that attains the greatest percentage water conservation.

* Do nothing. Nevada politicians could declare it is a federal problem. The feds created Lake Mead, built hundreds of water projects, have more expertise and have had over a decade to pursue many of these options.

* Politicians call for a 10 percent cut. All major Nevada politicians could jointly urge all southern Nevada residents to reduce water consumption by at least 10 percent.

* Slow growth to 2 percent. Southern Nevada's 5 percent annual growth rate in recent years is higher than any country on the planet. The rate for all of Africa is 2.5 percent. The rate for the entire United States is 1 percent.

* Combinations of the above options.


* MARK BIRD is a professor at the College of Southern Nevada. Bird can be contacted at mark.bird@csn.edu.