Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Rural Nevadans now know what it feels like to be Indian

Sun Tzu, author of The Art of War, wrote that the most successful acts of conquest require no military action whatsoever. I guess it's like getting something for nothing.

The Nevada State Engineer has just awarded Southern Nevada a huge chunk of Rural Nevada's water. It was all legal. It was all according to State Law – even though it defies rationality. Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) now has access to billions of dollars worth of other people's water. How could it possibly be moral for one community to take the water out from under the feet of another community, when there are alternatives? But it was all “legal,” therefore, they must be “right.”

Sure, they're adhering to the law. But, what law. They'll pay their taxes... but wait, SNWA's operations in White Pine County are tax exempt. They'll pay for what they take... but wait, Nevada law says SNWA can have the water for free. They'll adhere to the rulings of the Federal Agencies... but wait, the Department of Interior has ordered all the Federal Agencies to stand down at the Nevada water hearings. As I said... what law?

Why do I feel like we here in Rural Nevada have been conquered, and our homeland is about to be pillaged. Why do I feel like this is just more of the same for Native Americans. Just consider our history. Like the Spanish Empire before them, Americans first sent in the military to subdue us. Then they took the gold... and then the jewels and the precious metals. After that, they took the land and the natural resources. Now, there is another wave of exploitation brewing. They want to take our most valuable life-giving resource and send us their waste, their toxic waste, and their nuclear waste.

I can put up with the mining of our minerals, but when they plan to take our water and pollute everything here, that's way beyond immoral. Sooner or later, at this rate, life here in Rural Nevada will become unlivable for the Western Shoshone and the other Nevadans who have joined us here in this remote and beautiful land. This will effectively be an indirect form of ethnic cleansing. And why? Because they can. I guess because they aren't willing to take a chance on any other ideas. And probably because there is a huge profit potential in oppressing your neighbors.

The rest of the nation may not be willing to admit this to themselves yet, but they are all looking for a place to send their waste. And they're all secretly wishing that they could ship it off to the most remote place they can find. That's right. If someone can just get us all to leave Rural Nevada, it will be theirs for the taking, to exploit as the dumpsite for the nation. I don't believe there is a conspiracy – just a trend. A trend we had better do everything we can to stop. Or else Rural Nevada, within our lifetime; will only be the home to power plant employees, toxic waste train operators, and dumpsite workers.

I suppose we should be happy that SNWA only got 40,000 acre feet per year, when they were “asking” for 90,000. But, the hydrologists I've talked to didn't believe there was more than 70,000 acre feet, maximum, in the Spring Valley. Do the math... Why does it feel like SNWA “asked” for twice as much as they wanted? So that we could feel triumphant when the Nevada State Engineer would only give them half... oh, and another 20,000 acre feet if nobody can stop them later? That adds up to 60,000 acre feet, the realistic amount of water that feeds into the Spring Valley. That adds up to NO water for the plants and animals that live there now. This is what localized extinction looks like. Say goodbye to the forests and the shrubs in Spring Valley. Say goodbye to the antelope. And say goodbye to some of the life up on the west face of Great Basin National Park, because the water draw down will effect the water table there too.

They've lied to us. Every time we've met these representatives from Southern Nevada (who are here to help themselves to our natural resources), they've just told us what we've wanted to hear. They intend to protect the environment. With what? A magic wand. They will only be taking water from deep water aquifers. With wells that reach only a couple hundred feet down? They will help our economy, by building coal fired power plants... that nobody else on the planet wants. And most disgusting of all, that they are doing this in the name of sustainability. They don't even know the meaning of the term “sustainability,” or maybe their hoping you don't.

I love Las Vegas. I was born there and lived there for most of my life. I used to be a volunteer for the Nevada Commission on Tourism. I even used to volunteer my time to promote tourism in Las Vegas. But I can no longer do that. It just doesn't feel right. In fact, someday, someone may call a boycott of Las Vegas. There's no need for that now, because there is no pipeline, and no coal fired power plants... yet. However, eventually, we may realize that the only way to influence Las Vegas, is to cut the powerful peoples' incomes. A boycott of a tourism destination could be very effective. All we would have to do is tell the story of the plight of the Western Shoshone. And I wouldn't be surprised that the Indian Casinos around the nation would be quite helpful in promoting this boycott.

Nevada casino owners and developers were there to influence the Nevada State Engineer during the water hearings. Now they have to live with that fact. They also have to live with the fact that they were lied to (by omission). There is an alternative to essentially stealing the rest of the state's water – a practical, cost effective, and responsible alternative. SNWA just didn't want you to know about it. Why? Maybe they just didn't check into it as well as they should. Then again, maybe they were ordered not to. Let's face it, there's big money in charging to deliver Rural Nevada's water. This could be a sign that all is not what it seems at SNWA.

SNWA defines it's business structure as a “quasi-municipality.” In over a year, I have yet to get a clear explanation of what that means. I'm starting to believe that the term “quasi” means more than the term “municipality.” If SNWA were still a municipality, they would be required to respond more to our communities. SNWA certainly hasn't responded to the community of White Pine County. If I were placing a bet, I'd say this looks like a back-door privatization effort. With the water grab, they could make billions in the delivery of water they obtained for free. Of course, the pipeline will cost somewhere between 2 billion and 20 billion dollars – but so what. Rate payers will pay for that. SNWA has already penned a deal with Coyote Springs for the delivery of Coyote Springs own water (from Central/Eastern Nevada), at the cost of $5000 an acre foot. If SNWA were to get all the water they were “asking” for, and were able to get at least what Coyote Springs has already agreed to, that would amount to a Billion dollars a year. If somehow, SNWA were to become privatized, that would likely mean multi-million dollar paychecks for future SNWA executives... of course, at Las Vegans' expense.

SNWA could desalinate sea water and trade that for a bigger allotment of the Colorado River. Hold on. Before you assume that there isn't any water in the Colorado left, consider this; Las Vegas' allotment of the Colorado River is 300,000 acre feet per year. In a year, 15,000,000 acre feet flow by. Even if Lake Mead were totally empty, Las Vegas would have no trouble getting another 60,000 acre feet, if they had the legal right to. 60,000 acre feet is only 0.4 % of the total flow of the Colorado River – but it is likely to be the total flow into Spring Valley. Why take the risk?

That is the big question, isn't it? Why take the risk that there isn't nearly the water they hope for in Spring Valley (and all those other desert valleys), when we all know that there is plenty of water in the ocean? With desalination, SNWA doesn't even have to build a pipeline – to anywhere. The desalinated water can go directly to the coastline communities, and SNWA can just pump more water out of the Colorado River.

SNWA might just be looking at the situation this way: Why do the right thing, and make fresh water to trade with California, when they can sell the delivery of water from Rural Nevada, and make billions? Las Vegas stands to suffer almost as much as Rural Nevada. Don't expect the pipeline water to be cheap – especially if some private company were to control the flow. Expect tourists to notice the destruction of Rural Nevada – and inevitably, some of them will decide to go to Indian casinos instead. The polluted dust bowls of Rural Nevada will not be much of a tourism draw. Some of that dust is bound to blow towards Las Vegas. And just in case you didn't remember, some of that dust is radioactive fallout from the Nevada Test Site. One more thing, how many people are going to want to visit or move to a state that is fast becoming the nation's toxic dump site.

If SNWA were to build a fleet of barges with reverse osmosis desalination units on board, there wouldn't be a need to take water from the desert. The barges would be offshore, which would eliminate the argument against coastal desalination plants. The desalination units could be powered by wave power generators. Wave power generation is already being successfully implemented elsewhere on the planet. Most importantly, wave power will not be dependent upon the rising price of fossil fuels. And the price of reverse osmosis just keeps getting cheaper. This is a good idea. But, if you can get them to tell you, I'll bet SNWA hasn't spent anywhere near a reasonable amount of time or money on studying off shore desalination. As far as I know, they haven't spent anything.

I don't blame Southern Nevada for trying to lock up a long term supply of water... just in case. If SNWA's intentions are to have the water there in Rural Nevada, waiting underground, for a not so rainy day; I really don't have a problem with that. If people in Las Vegas were really going thirsty, and didn't have any alternative, I wouldn't be trying to stop the pipeline. But, that isn't the case. At least not yet. We do have better alternatives. This is where you come in, casino owners. You can pressure SNWA.

The casino owners and the developers have been duped into thinking that the pipeline is the only option. The truth is that, for now, it is the worst option.

If we can convince SNWA to invest in just one prototype desalination barge, we would be well on the way to proving the obvious; that in a world of less and less fresh water, it is now time to start making our fresh water – instead of fighting over the last few drops in the desert.

1 comment:

dortiz said...

I am sad over every injustice done to humanity and to mother earth and I as a Spaniard am not bitter for being one because of what some people have done in the past. I feel there is bad in all cultures and I have traveled and have seen so many injustices. Only time will tell what will happen to all of us good people on this earth. We have to continue to try and make changes and as long as good people do nothing to protect this life...all life then evil will take a stronger hold.