Wednesday, August 30, 2006

One Third of the World Short of Fresh Water

Lack of fresh water isn't just a local problem. It isn't just a regional problem. Lack of fresh water is a worldwide problem - and the sooner we start desalinating sea water the better.

"Worrisome predictions in 2000 had forecast that one third of the world population would be affected by water scarcity by 2025. Our findings from the just-concluded research show the situation to be even worse," says Frank Rijsberman, Director General of the International Water Management Institute (IWMI). "Already in 2005, more than a third of the world population is affected by water scarcity."

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Why SNWA's Desalination Costs Are Wrong

Back when Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) compared a pipeline to desalination, they assumed that a Big Factory type of desalination plant would be the best option. Typically, due to economies of scale, bigger plants generally make cheaper fresh water. But, SNWA made their comparisons before new membrane designs, new wave power generators, and lower energy use desalination units (for ships) were available. In other words, things have changed significantly – quite recently. Nowadays, a Big Factory type of plant isn't nearly as good an option as designers once thought. And mass produced smaller plants, operating offshore, might be a much better option.

A Big Factory desalination plant has a number of costs, impacts, and risks that can be avoided by utilizing a Barge Armada of desalination units with wave generated power. For instance:

  1. A big plant is a big commitment, with the risk that you overbuilt – or better technology will leave your plant obsolete. Whereas, a fleet of small, offshore barge desalination plants can be built as needed, utilizing the latest technology.

  2. A big onshore plant would need acres and acres of beach front property to build a massive facility, canals, and pipelines – and typically, a massive onshore coal fired power plant (has been the only option considered). A barge armada would only need dock front property to house the facility to assemble and repair the desalination units and wave power generators – just big enough to hold a few barges.

  3. Construction and maintenance costs for an intake canal for a big onshore desalination plant would likely range from $5 million to $40 million. But, barges would need no intake canal – since the barges would be about 3 miles out to sea.

  4. An onshore plant would require more pre-filtering than offshore barges.

  5. The costs for a pipeline to distribute tons of brine offshore would be about 10% of construction costs for a big onshore plant. However, since the barges would be already offshore, and the plants on each barge are small enough not to effect local sea salinity, no pipeline would be necessary.

  6. Industry experts estimate that power expenses will amount to about 30% of total costs for a big, onshore desalination plant. But, the risk in these estimates is high. The price of coal will likely go up. The price of electricity will likely go up. And, just in case you don't remember Enron, these expenses could go way up, fast. If, however, you generated your own power, from waves; you're set. The price of waves will always be free.

  7. New, lower pressure Reverse Osmosis membrane technology has been developed that could lower the energy costs of desalination by 75%. But the membranes, so far, are small. As they are scaled up, Big Factory desalination plants would have to wait the longest for the technology. Conversely, small desalination plants would be the first to benefit. The spare electric power generated by the wave generators could then be sold, turning power costs into power profits.

There's more. A Barge Armada is far less vulnerable to earthquake, tsunami, and terrorist damage. They also have far less negative impacts on beach communities. Giant sea snakes and boats far off in the distance would be far more welcome than a big factory plant and a big power plant.

I'll have more on the actual costs later.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Newe SNWA Board Member

As a member of the Western Shoshone (Newe) Tribe of Native Americans, I perceive this water grab from a different perspective than much of the rest of America. I only speak here as an individual. I am not a representative of the Tribe.

I don't see this water grab as a necessary act to continue the success of our economic system. I don't see this as inevitable to keep our Country strong. The way I see this is; as just the continued dominance and exploitation of the Native Americans. The Western Shoshone still own this land in Central Nevada, by Treaty, with the United States of America. A treaty that has never been settled. We Western Shoshone don't wish to bankrupt the Nation with an appropriate cash payoff, or expect you to give it all back. That wouldn't be realistic. But, when natural resources are taken from our land; we would at least be appeased if you leveed appropriate taxes on them, that reflected the real cost of their actions. Everything taken from this land has a cost far greater than the up front cost of just taking it.

Of course, we Western Shoshone would greatly prefer that as much of our land as reasonably possible remain as natural as possible. Many of us feel that, especially since this Treaty hasn't been settled yet, keeping the land healthy would be an honorable act the Government could do, as an act of respect to our people and the Treaties our Nations have pledged to abide by.

At the very least, we could minimize the environmental, economic, and health damage; by just charging those who wish to take from our Nation, the real world cost of doing it.

The 2 billion dollar cost of just drilling the wells, putting in the pumps and the pipeline network; is just the cost of preparing to take the water. It seems that's all Southern Nevada Water Authority wanted originally to pay – just the extraction costs. They've now spent what? Approaching 100 million dollars on farm and ranch land in Spring Valley? The rest of the costs; the environmental destruction, the economic stagnation, and the health loss – will pretty much be the burden of Rural Nevada and the Western Shoshone.

It has been said that one of the more dubious goals of big corporations has been their tendency to socialize the costs, and their contradictory tendency to privatize the profits. Of course, SNWA is not a corporation, it is a quasi-municipality – which means that SNWA must be responsive to the community to which is serves.

SNWA should recognize that if they want to function as a Statewide entity, and don't pay taxes in the State of Nevada, that they should have representation from the whole State of Nevada. The Board of Directors of SNWA should have at least one member from each effected County, the Western Shoshone and Paiute Tribes, and the State of Nevada. This would be a reasonable step in the right direction. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised that eventually it will be mandatory, because SNWA's current management practices in the State of Nevada just might be illegal.

If I were on the Board of Directors of SNWA, I would be asking these questions:

  1. Where's my report on the decreased cost of desalination?

  2. In light of the long term multi-million dollar investments in ranches, how much money have we spent on water alternatives, such as desalination, that could get us water sooner?

  3. 75 years is a long time, what happens if the tax laws change, and someday, we have to pay more than just extraction costs?

  4. Since White Pine County hasn't settled with SNWA, they may someday be able to sue us for costs over and above extraction costs. Have we calculated those possible costs into our risk analysis?

  5. Most importantly; is the water grab really the right thing to do... or just the path of least resistance?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Freedom Should Not Mean Corporate Anarchy 2

Part 2 of 9

This isn't the first time Southern Nevada officials have tried to take Central Nevada's water. They've been stopped before. Almost 20 years ago, there was another push to put in a pipeline network. But, the community of Southern Nevada wouldn't put up with it. We saw this as outright theft (and utterly destructive to Nevada's sensitive ecosystem) and we refused to be a part of it.

This time, the people who stand to make millions are doing everything they can to get around any grass roots resistance from the local Las Vegas community... But they're not doing it with their own money.

Money that the residents of Las Vegas are paying to the Southern Nevada Water Authority (for water) is being used to finance the advertisements that are essentially efforts to mildly brainwash the very same residents of Las Vegas – into thinking this is a good idea... That's right. I said it – brainwashing. Advertising works – by messing with our heads.

Why do we need to be told, over and over again, that this is a good thing? Let's face it, if this effort were such a good idea, it could stand on it's own merit – and there wouldn't be a need to soften up public opinion with an expensive ad campaign. And, even more insidiously, if the local media are being softened up with ad money too, how thorough can you expect their investigative reporting to be?

In a way, Las Vegas residents are paying for their own force feeding of disinformation – and they don't seem to care. We've quietly just accepted it. We think to ourselves; “Oh, this is just how the mainstream press works.” Maybe it is, but we should be fighting mad about it.

Consider this: When the mainstream press tells us that a coal fired power plant has “zero emissions,” we've just accepted that at face value... Hey, wait a minute, “zero emissions” is not a scientific term, its a politicians' term. It means anything below what the energy companies determine as acceptable is considered... negligible.

Our nation's power plants emit 42% of the toxins in U.S. air pollution, according to the EPA's 2002 Toxic Release Inventory – over ten times what our cars, trucks, buses, boats, and trains emit. That's 48 tons of mercury a year! And there's more; 361,000 tons of as many as 60 other toxins, including lead, arsenic, vanadium, barium, zinc, nickel, hydrogen fluoride, hydrochloric acid, selenium, etc., etc., etc. And none of these toxins will actually be regulated after the reversal of the 2000 EPA decision, which had placed electric utilities on the critical list of sources of hazardous air pollutants. It seems that Bush and Cheney, with all their scientific wisdom, somehow have been able to convince the EPA that they were wrong. The EPA now concludes that all of these other non-mercury toxic emissions pose no hazards to public health.

Oh, by the way, don't expect the Clean Air Act to require new power plants to use the best technology available anymore. A leaked memo from the (Bush/Cheney) EPA to an industry lobbyist said new power plants may use a lower standard. And, just in case you didn't know any better; if they don't have to, don't expect the power companies to spend the extra money.

Even if, somehow, the coal fired power plant designers were able to create some new technology to accomplish “zero emissions” of air pollutants, they wouldn't be able to make these chemicals disappear. All they can do is convert them to a different type of pollution. In this case, toxic sludge. Every year, even though so many tons of toxic power plant emissions float off into the air, U.S. coal fired power plants produce 130 million tons of toxic sludge. That's right, in addition to pollution floating off in the wind for 600 miles, there will also be huge holding ponds of toxic sludge near the power plants. These ponds are notorious for leaking – and they would leak right into the Great Basin underground water supply.

Freedom Should Not Mean Corporate Anarchy 1

Part 1 of 9

They tell us that its all been decided.

They tell us that it has to be done.

They tell us that there is no other way.

They want to drill for what little water the high deserts of Rural Nevada have accumulated over tens of thousands of years and pipe it to Las Vegas, a city right next to the Colorado River. And they want to build coal fired power plants to run the pumps.

It just doesn't make sense. Why would anyone want to build a massive project to ship water out of the desert using power from some of the dirtiest and most water hungry technology available? And why would they base their decision upon the price of coal – which is highly likely be more expensive once we become locked in as customers? Why not just build and operate (small, mass produced, offshore, wave powered) desalination plants for California in return for a larger allotment from the Colorado River? Why not just do the right thing that has the longest term benefits? We all know that desalination plants in the Pacific Ocean will never run out of water, and that desert wells won't last all that long. We all know that taking another community's water is essentially stealing from their future. And we all know that the desert will suffer the most, when it's water is taken away.

How can our business environment be so out of touch with the actual Environment? Are those who are making these decisions just being greedy (there are billions of dollars at stake), or are they being forced by some twisted political circumstances to make such strange and dangerous decisions? For instance, why would Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) want power from coal fired power plants, knowing that these plants would be competing with them for water?

All of a sudden, just as it was beginning to look like alternative power generation was starting to take off, a number of companies are rushing to build coal fired power plants in Nevada. What happened? Is this a sign?

Is this a sign of how bad things really are? Are our systems so screwed up that we can't do the right things? And, why hasn't the government stepped in to help us with the right decisions? Isn't long term planning what good government is there for? Worst of all, why is it that no one seems to care enough to do anything to fix things?

This is a story of systematic greed and oppression in our own country – right now. This is a story of the real American Dream gone wrong. This is a story that could have a happy ending - but, only if we don't allow others to decide our fate for us.

True Power

True power – is power over one's own life.”

True strength – is strength used wisely.

True freedom – is freedom from desire.”

True love – is love for life.

True happiness – is when everything that really matters goes right.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

New Desal Membrane - Water 75% Cheaper

Here is the link to the Lawerence Livermore National Laboratory press release concerning the new desalination membrane. The results are very promising.

SNWA is a Quasi-Municipality Part 2

Part 2

Since I've never taken any business classes that explained to me just how a quasi-municipality functions, I'll just have to guess. Better yet, I'll tell you what I'd like to see, and what I hope we haven't got. I sense that a quasi-municipality could be a very good thing – but there is always a possibility that some quasi-con artists are scheming to exploit us.

There are times when municipalities just make sense:

  1. Municipality profits and expenses are regulated. If a private company or corporation ran SNWA, I'd be willing to run down to Vegas and bet everything that the price of water would be higher, if you could get it. Privatization of water, both in the US and the world, has been a disaster. Almost without exception, privatized water systems' water prices have skyrocketed, and quality has plummeted.

  2. Municipalities can reduce redundancy of equipment needed by separate companies, and therefore, costs.

  3. Municipalities can reduce competition for resources (which can lead to a “waste it now or someone else get it” attitude).

  4. Municipalities must respond to the community. Consequently, they have to be socially responsible. If SNWA were a corporation, their shareholders profits would be more important than the community – their customers. Attorney Joel Bakan is quoted in UTNE magazine; “it's actually illegal for a (corporate) manager or director to do anything that subtracts... from shareholder returns.” No community wants that.

As long as a quasi-municipality doesn't get out of control, by taking on the worst habits of corporations and governmental bureaucracies; this new form of business might prove quite functional. The big concern is; have they, or will they take on those bad habits? Here's how SNWA rates on the previous points:

  1. The price, quality, and reliability of water in Las Vegas are all quite acceptable. SNWA passes the first test.

  2. SNWA is more efficient than redundant companies. SNWA passes the second test.

  3. When Las Vegas was just a bunch of people with wells, the water table dropped like a rock. SNWA has made a significant difference here. They've shut down most of the the private wells. They've even recharged some wells. However, another way of looking at this is that SNWA got rid of their competition, has almost total control over the water in Las Vegas, and wants unlimited access to as much water in the State as they can get. Whether SNWA passes this test depends upon whether you're for unsustainable growth in Las Vegas or not. Rural Nevada has become the competition (to be eliminated) for the water underneath our own feet. Its as if SNWA wants to waste it now, or Rural Nevadans' children might get it.

  4. The developers in Las Vegas want Las Vegas to grow. Undoubtedly, SNWA is responding to them. But the rest of the citizens, the vast majority of the population, aren't all that thrilled about uncontrolled growth. They have no desire whatsoever to despoil the rest of the State. And they fear that they will end up getting stuck with the bill when pipeline costs overrun. Since SNWA is now beginning to act like a State entity, it would make sense to consider the rest of the State effected by SNWA's actions as part of the community. So, when it comes to responding to the community, SNWA essentially fails. They have responded to the big business interests and ignored most of the people in Las Vegas and the State of Nevada. Maybe this is why SNWA doesn't want to be particularly clear about the way their business functions.

If you have more information about SNWA's quasi-municipality form of business, please leave a comment.

SNWA is a Quasi-Municipality Part 1

Part 1

Just what kind of business is Southern Nevada Water Authority anyway?, It isn't quite a municipality, but it was formed from a group of municipalities. It isn't a corporation, but divisions of it might be someday. SNWA has a uniquely unusual mix of governmental power and exemption from public compliance. Are we witnessing a totally new form of business structure here? And why do I sometimes suspect SNWA doesn't really want us to understand how they function?

When asked, a representative of SNWA recently responded that they are a quasi-municipality. But, what does that really mean? And is that a good thing or bad?

If you are White Pine County, SNWA's business structure could mean a bad thing. Since SNWA is tax exempt, the recent purchases of private ranches in White Pine County will result in a reduction of tax revenue. SNWA is considering paying monies in lieu of taxes, but they don't have to. And you can be sure that; if SNWA does pay anything, there will be strings attached.

Of course, tax exempt ownership of ranches isn't a new thing in Nevada. The Mormon Church owns many properties, and doesn't pay taxes on any of them. Unlike SNWA, don't even bother to ask the Church to pay any money in lieu of taxes. They're likely promoting “faith based initiatives” – translation; your tax dollars for them. Religious organizations are draining government coffers in two ways, by not paying taxes and by using taxpayers' money. So, in this respect, SNWA could be a bigger burden.

As we all know, there are many people who feel that churches benefit the community enough that they shouldn't have to pay taxes. OK. I don't wish to argue that point. My point is; how does SNWA's tax exempt status help White Pine County? I would say not at all. Furthermore, is tax exemption a form of reverse taxation? Technically, I would think so. So, is this a form of taxation without representation? It sure looks like it.

Up until recently, whatever SNWA did wasn't of much a concern to White Pine County. Everything SNWA did, happened in Clark County. But things have changed. SNWA now wants the State of Nevada's water. SNWA now owns businesses in other counties, and doesn't have to pay taxes on them. SNWA is now acting like a state-wide quasi-governmental entity.

Herein lies the big question:

If SNWA is a quasi-municipality, that is tax exempt in White Pine County, shouldn't White Pine County have a say in the operation of SNWA? In fact, shouldn't every county effected by SNWA have at least one seat on the board of directors?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


You might have been wondering what groups are involved in the struggle against the Rural Nevada water grab. Here are a couple:

Nevada Water Network — Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada

PLAN has published an informative brochure on water issues in Nevada, titled

Nevada Water Issues 2006
A Handbook for Public Officials, the Press, and the Public

you can find it at:

Great Basin Water Network

has published information about what you can do to help

you can find it at:

If would like to give information about other organizations, please press the comments button.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Order on Motion to Dismiss

The Nevada State Engineer will hold a hearing, starting on September 11, concerning the applications by Southern Nevada Water Authority for water literally under Rural Nevadans' feet. As you might have expected, there have been a number of protests.

SNWA could have openly faced these protests at the hearing, and stated their case as fairly as possible. But that wasn't what they wanted to do. SNWA has tried to dismiss all of the protests before the hearing ever happens.

SNWA tried to dismiss protests by:

  • the National Park Service, who protested that they have water rights in the Great Basin National Park.

  • the Fish and Wildlife Service, who protested that four National Wildlife Refuges would be endangered.

  • the Sierra Club, who protested that potential National Wilderness Areas would be affected.

  • White Pine County, who protested that they have previously filed applications.

  • the Ely Shoshone Tribe, who protested that the Treaty of Ruby Valley would be broken.

That's right, it doesn't matter who you are, SNWA doesn't want you to speak at the hearing. SNWA also doesn't want you mentioning a few particular subjects. Here's one:

VIII. B1 and B2. The Applicant moves to dismiss or limit the State Engineer's review of any protest claim that addresses whether the proposed transfer is environmentally sound. That's right, even though SNWA has told us over and over again that they care so much about the environment, they tried to entirely dismiss the subject in the State Engineer's hearing. They didn't even want him to be able to consider the environment! Fortunately, their request to dismiss the protest was denied.

SNWA also moved to dismiss protests that taking the water:

  • would create dust bowls and negatively impact air quality

  • would impair water quality

  • that there is insufficient information to determine potential impacts

  • that the proposed appropriations will reduce groundwater levels

  • that the approval of the Applications would sanction water mining

  • that granting the Applications will destroy scenic and recreational values

All of these efforts to dismiss protests were denied – and rightfully so.

When asked about their tactics, a representative from SNWA said that they were just “covering all their bases.”... Covering all their bases??? Pardon me, but I would call it pulling every dirty trick in the book.

(Sadly, the State Engineer had to dismiss the protest that approval of the Applications will encourage willful waste and inefficient use of water... which of course, it would.)

Stay tuned. The drama and intrigue will continue.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Desalted Sea Water for $000 per Billion Gallons

Mark Bird, a professor at CCSN, has written a very interesting article about the real cost of desalination.

Guess what? If we were to use real world accounting instead of "all that matters is the quarterly profits" accounting proceedures, desalination would likely cost us
less that what we're doing now.

He points out that if we continue to manage our water with
inside the box thinking, our real world costs could eventually be devistating for the West... and the World.

Check out his article:

$000 Current Seawater Desalting Costs

Friday, August 04, 2006

Presentation to SNWA at White Pine meeting 8/06

Up until now SNWA has been like a superhero in Las Vegas. Your organization has been able to provide water for a million people, living out in the desert. You have been able to recycle almost 100% of the water that's returned through the sewers – outstanding... But, your customers are complacent. They think they can waste as much water as they want, and that you'll just... provide. We all know that almost all of the evaporative losses in Las Vegas are for luxuries. Nobody farms down there. Even so, Las Vegas has ordered you to get water from the rest of Nevada. Your new role; arch villain. Which is what brings you here.

Let's not kid ourselves. We all know that taking water from the desert is tantamount to a death sentence. Without water, our future is limited to the few acre feet we get to keep. Without water, our environments in our valleys will collapse. One of the rare ecosystems set to die in White Pine County will be the Rocky Mountain Juniper forest in Spring Valley – the winter home of my (Western Shoshone) ancestors. Even the Great Basin National Park will be damaged. Within a few decades, all of the valleys from Southern Nevada to Ely will be nothing but sand. The only signs of life will be the bones of the antelope that now live here.

I've been to these meetings:

  • I've heard you tell us that you'll be pulling the water from deep wells, but most of your applications with the State are for less than 200 feet.

  • I've heard you tell us that these deep wells will be lined, to insure that the water doesn't leak from upper to lower aquifers. But, the water could easily leak on the outside of the liners.

  • I've heard you tell us that you are very concerned about the wildlife at risk. Yet you won't even address how much wildlife would have to die before you'd be willing to stop pumping. All you say is that you will obey the law. Well, I've learned that Nevada law pretty much allows you to kill it all.

  • I've heard you tell us that you will be monitoring water tables. But so what, when they will be dropping everywhere, and there's no way to stop them.

  • I've heard you tell us that we will be included in an oversight committee – but that the committee will not have any real authority to actually stop pumping.

If you don't have a better deal for us than that, we don't have any choice but to fight you.

I announced, at the Ely City Council meeting, that Lawrence Livermore Labs had developed a new desalination membrane that would reduce the cost of desalination by 75%. I hope you've looked into it. There is a massive opportunity here for you. Imagine, Southern California, that's right Southern California Desalinated Water Authority. You could start off small, but scalable – with offshore barges, powered by wave energy (like the ones off the coast of Portugal). Your first plants can be designed with conventional desalination technology. Initial costs might seem higher than the 10 year old figures for the pipeline network, pumps, and power plants. But that ignores your long term potential. When the new membrane technology is scaled up to the volume of your small plants, you can be the first on the block to be ready to use them. In other words, while everyone else is either waiting for membranes to be developed for larger (on shore) plants, or are still in the planning stage – all you'll essentially have to do is switch out your membranes. Almost instantly, your costs will drop precipitously. With the extra money, you can build more desalination plants, and dominate the desalination industry in California.

You can plan for this. LLL claim that it should take about 5 to 10 years to develop large scale membranes. By then you can have the facilities ready to mass produce these off shore barges.

Consider this; if you rely on wave power, your power source will be safe from earthquakes, and, most importantly, from the inevitable rising price of coal. When you switch out your membranes, not only will your water be the cheapest in California, you might even sell them the power you won't be needing at the lower pressures.

If SNWA were willing to desalinate more water for California than we would ask for from the Colorado River, of course they would be willing to deal with us. And with the new technology, we would be able to deliver it, at a reasonable price, by the time the desalination plants are built. And best of all, the water in Rural Nevada could remain here – to keep our wildlife alive, and to store for future generations, when they might really need it (for more than fountains and artificial lakes).

Southern Nevada Water Authority can be the superhero again. There will be a risk. The risk will only be financial. But the benefits might be outstanding. I'm sure that there are those in your organization who want a sure thing... But remember, the only sure thing we are looking at here in Rural Nevada, with the pipeline network, is that our future is in jeopardy. Our economy is in jeopardy. Our environment is in jeopardy. Our health is in jeopardy. And for what? So that Southern Nevada politicians don't have to raise local taxes on new residents... to pay for the real cost of moving to Las Vegas.

We need to get new Las Vegas residents to pay for desalination. If they don't pay the real cost for moving here, only the developers will profit from their presence.

The people who move to Las Vegas don't want to move to a wasteland. And that's Nevada's future with the pipeline. What do you think will happen to the land, if nothing can live on it? Rural Nevada will become the dump site for the Nation. And we're your next door neighbor.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Is There Really A Water Crisis?

Las Vegas' allotment from the Colorado River amounts to about four inches of Lake Mead water level per year. This is only a small fraction of the total water taken from the river.

In contrast, for a while in 2004, California was draining Lake Mead's water level at the rate of over a foot a week! Southern California has been, for a number of years, taking three times it's allotment from the Colorado River. In 2004, when the Lake Mead water level got so low that the generators at Hoover Dam might have to be shut down, SNWA apparently panicked. This led to the draining of Lake Powell too.

If California would have kept to it's allotment, the water crises of lakes Mead and Powell may have been averted. So, why didn't Southern Nevada Water Authority scream and shout while Lake Mead was being drained?

Let me also point out that every lake on the Colorado River below Lake Mead was full.

It almost looks like this crisis was contrived. Why would SNWA allow this to happen? What would they possibly want? To panic Las Vegans? To get the sympathy of the rest of the State of Nevada? Maybe even to get momentum to “diversify” their sources of water – at the expense of Rural Nevada.

Southern Nevada Water Authority has been trying to take water from Central Nevada since the late 1980's, but nobody would put up with it... not even the residents of Las Vegas. Now that there appears to be a “crisis,” it looks like SNWA might get their way.

Consider this: Since there are no reserves of water in Lakes Mead and Powell, the resistance to building the pipeline network is being ignored, and they've already found a developer (who wants to build a community out in the desert) who is willing to pay them to “deliver” (not sell, because for now, that's illegal) water at a very profitable price. How convenient...

If someone were scheming to make illegitimate billions, the next steps would be to soften up Nevada's legal restrictions and privatize SNWA. But they wouldn't do that until they got approval to take the water.

If someone were scheming to make illegitimate billions, they could be stopped if we just do the right thing, and not allow them to take the water from Central Nevada... SNWA can and obviously should build California desalination plants in exchange for a bigger allotment of the Colorado River.

Preparing for a Sustainable Nevada

As I was sifting through my junk mail earlier this year, I read “welcome to your newsletter” from Southern Nevada Water Authority. I suspected that if the truth in advertising laws were really all that effective, the letter should have said “welcome to your propaganda.” Well... I pretty much got what I expected. What I found were the same old; we're gonna take your water, and you're gonna like it stories. But what struck me as the most blatant of all their BS was the title:

Preparing for a Sustainable Nevada

Excuse me SNWA, but

sustaining unsustainable growth is not sustainability!

Paul Hawken, in his book The Ecology of Commerce, defines sustainability as an economic state where the demands placed upon the environment by people and commerce can be met without reducing the capacity of the environment to provide for future generations.

...So, maybe they're version of a “sustainable Nevada” was more like a hydrologist's interpretation of the Nevada Law. Nevada Law requires that you take of no more water out of the ground than what goes into the ground. Geez Wally, that kinda sounds sustainable. But when you think about it, what that means is stealing all of the ground water from the life that once lived on it. You know, all those water wasting plants on the surface... and all of those animals that once depended on those plants.

Ask any hydrologist. A sustainable groundwater system in Nevada (by law) is one where people pump out just enough water to drop the water table enough to kill all of the life on the surface dependent upon groundwater. That, to a Nevada hydrologist, is a system in balance... How screwed up can we get?

There is good news, however. I was just listening to a representative of SNWA claim that essentially 100% of the water used indoors in Las Vegas gets recycled. Used water ends up returning through the sewage system, through the water treatment plant, back to Lake Mead, and then fresh water is returned back to the city. Excellent! My congratulations on such an efficient system.

But, unfortunately, your users aren't so efficient... This same representative also claimed that most of the water losses were due to evaporation, from use of water outdoors. But in a way, this is good news. Since hardly anyone in Las Vegas does any farming, most all of the evaporative losses are for luxury items; lakes, pools, golf courses, lawns, waterfalls, and non-desert foliage. If Las Vegas can just eliminate it's wasteful evaporative losses, 100% of their water can be recycled, and they won't need any more water. Now, that's sustainability.