SNWA, federal bureaus reach water right applications agreement

The Southern Nevada Water Authority finalized an agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs and National Park Service related to the SNWA's request to draw upon untapped groundwater supplies within Cave, Delamar and Dry Lake valleys in Lincoln County. The agreement follows the consensus-based process established in a similar agreement last year, in which the SNWA was granted water rights...

LAS VEGAS, Jan. 9, 2008 -- The Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) finalized an agreement Monday with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs and National Park Service related to the SNWA's request to draw upon untapped groundwater supplies within Cave, Delamar and Dry Lake valleys in Lincoln County.

"We have worked together to develop a monitoring system that will be able to identify potential changes in the groundwater table, effectively providing an 'early warning' system that helps protect water-dependent ecosystems and the sensitive wildlife species they support," said SNWA Deputy General Manager Kay Brothers.

The agreement follows the consensus-based process established in a similar agreement with federal entities related to Spring Valley in White Pine County, where the SNWA was granted water rights last year. In addition to the extensive groundwater monitoring program already in place, through which data has been collected for a number of years from throughout eastern and central Nevada, the agreement calls for an additional four monitoring wells and eight new spring monitoring sites within the area of interest.

Ongoing biological research focused on "special-status" wildlife species such as threatened or endangered fish and snails that inhabit springs in the area is also included within the agreement. Before any pumping begins, the SNWA will also draft an operation plan that defines specific mitigation measures and the conditions under which they will occur.

For their part, the federal bureaus will withdraw their protests to the SNWA's applications at the upcoming water rights hearing before the Nevada State Engineer, scheduled to begin February 4. The agreement's protections extend beyond the three valleys in which the SNWA has applications to include the Pahranagat Valley Hydrographic Basin, which encompasses the Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge and the Key Pittman Wildlife Management Area, and the southern portion of the White River Valley Hydrographic Basin, which includes the Kirch Wildlife Management Area.

"We recognize that our efforts to reduce Southern Nevada's reliance upon the drought-plagued Colorado River cannot come at the expense of Nevada's environment," Brothers said. "This agreement assures that our use of Nevada's untapped water resources will be conducted in an environmentally responsible manner."

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