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‘The issue that crosses party lines’

Updated February 20, 2024 - 12:13 pm

More than 70 percent of Nevadans consider water supply and lowering river levels a serious issue, but only a little more than half believe climate change is, a Colorado College poll released Wednesday shows.

Water continues to be a hot-button issue for voters who are looking for leaders who can best address diminishing water availability as the Colorado River faces historic challenges.

Nevada, the driest state in the nation, is second only to Arizona among Western states for concern about water.

The 2024 Conservation in the West Poll randomly sampled 428 registered voters across Nevada, proportionally choosing them from different parts of the state.

“Water continues to be an issue of great concern to Westerners,” a summary of the poll’s findings said. “Virtually all voters say water levels and supply are serious problems, with downstream Colorado River Compact States expressing the most concern.”

Though water appears to be at the top of most Nevadans’ priority lists, only 56 percent of state residents feel climate change is an extremely or very serious problem.

Climate change is often more partisan than water issues, said Lori Weigel, principal at research firm New Bridge Strategy.

“Water is the issue that crosses party lines,” she said. “Everybody cares about water.”

But the effects of climate change are here in Nevada.

Residents are on the front line of a burgeoning, worldwide extreme heat crisis scientists only expect to worsen.

A warming world also fuels water loss across the Colorado River Basin.

Last year, a study found that the basin lost 10 trillion gallons of water, equivalent to the entire capacity of Lake Mead, to climate change from 2000 to 2021.

With less available water, climate change is complicating talks between states as they decide how to adjust Colorado River appropriations before time runs out in 2026.

The lack of alarm for climate change points to a clear lack of education on the issue across the state, said Benjamin Leffel, an assistant professor at UNLV who studies how cities and corporations across the world are adapting to climate change.

“Nevada is a crystal ball, more or less,” Leffel said. “We’re already in the future that many other cities around the world will be experiencing. Very soon, you won’t need to be in a valley to be in punishing heat.”

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Contact Alan at ahalaly@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlanHalaly on X.

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