People in the sewage treatment business have been telling the same tired good news-bad news joke for 40 years.
"The good news is the effluent coming out of our plant is good enough to drink. The bad news is there's not enough to go around."
That's what makes a standoff between the city of North Las Vegas and Clark County so silly. They're fighting over whether effluent from a new city wastewater treatment can flow down storm drainage channels into the Las Vegas Wash and eventually into Lake Mead.
North Las Vegas hopes to start operating the $240 million plant in May, but has yet to get county approval to dump 25 million gallons of effluent a day into the concrete-lined Sloan Channel. The state has already given the thumbs up.
County commissioners, however, are throwing up objections that make it sound as though urchins will be pedalling their bikes through rat-infested gutters overflowing with raw sewage, like some medieval slum. In fact, the treated wastewater will be cleaner than the runoff from storms that already flows down the channel and the wash.
The county also objects that the plant should never have been built in the first place, that the city should've found another solution. It is a little late for that now. It is built and nearly operational.
Besides, it was not unreasonable for the city to consider other options when, several years ago, the rates it was paying Las Vegas to treat its sewage were raised 40 percent.
North Las Vegas Mayor Shari Buck is hinting there may be a showdown. "We'll continue for a very short time trying to work with the county, but we're really to the point where we're going to move forward and take care of the needs of our constituents," she was quoted as saying, adding ominously that county officials "would have to try to stop us."
Let's not forget that when the 28,000 acre-feet a year of water from that North Las Vegas plant hit Lake Mead, the valley gets a return-flow credit, which adds onto Nevada's current paltry share of 300,000 acre-feet a year.
The county should back off on this one.