Pipe dreams

Aided by an apparent mass email campaign on the final day for comments, thousands of groups and individuals went on the record as of Dec. 2 opposing the Southern Nevada Water Authority's plan to pipe water to Las Vegas from remote east central Nevada.

The water authority is seeking state permission to tap groundwater across eastern Nevada and pump it to Las Vegas through a multibillion-dollar pipeline more than 300 miles long.

The bulk of the letters -- 21,063 in all -- came on a single computer disk sent to the state engineer by the Center for Biological Diversity, a national conservation group based in Tucson, Ariz. The group sent an action alert to members worldwide urging them to weigh in on the pipeline project.

Everyone has a right to their say. But this is not an international bulk email referendum, thank goodness. Water is a state resource, and should be used however it best benefits Nevada and Nevadans overall.

Some, including state Wildlife Commissioner Charlie Howell of Las Vegas, say "We don't need to get water for another 250,000 homes in Clark County. ... We've got way too many empty homes already."

For the short term, Mr. Howell is right. But the water authority has no plans to start the pipeline anytime soon. The point is to have the time-consuming environmental approvals ready to go, if and when the time comes.

That's good planning -- exactly the kind of planning the state and county ought to be doing.

Yes, opening up Colorado River water for sale at market rates, so Nevada could buy some of the huge share that now goes to irrigate thirsty crops in Arizona and California, would be a better plan. Anyone who knows how to accomplish that in today's real political world should speak up.

Environmental safeguards and an ongoing monitoring program have been set up to avoid a duplication of the legendary draining of the Owens Valley to bring water to Los Angeles in the 1920s -- though it's unclear that any majority vote in California would reverse that alleged crime, even today.