81°F
weather icon Partly Cloudy
PART 6: Southern Nevada water agency intensifies turf war

Residents and cities are buying into the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s campaign against ornamental sod. Since 1999, more than 187 million square feet of grass have been removed and untold millions more were never planted.

Do we have a deal?
Windsurfers sail the waves near Boulder Beach at Lake Mead National Recreation Area in October 2018. (Richard Brian/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

PART 4: Not-quite-completed drought plan for Colorado seen as a first step

A

fter more than three years of talks and repeated threats of federal intervention, water officials in seven Western states still haven’t quite finished an emergency drought plan for the Colorado River.

The so-called Drought Contingency Plan won’t be considered done until water users in Arizona and California sign off on all of the underlying agreements necessary to make the larger deal work, said Terry Fulp, Lower Colorado regional director for the Bureau of Reclamation.

As of Friday, Fulp said, there were still about 20 agreements waiting to be finished in Arizona and some lingering issues between California’s two largest Colorado River water users, the Imperial Irrigation District and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

“These are being worked on feverishly, and we are hopeful these things can be done in the next few weeks,” he said. “We are just so close. We are going to get there I think.”


(Las-Vegas Review Journal)

The bureau has promised to step in with its own drought response if the states can’t complete their plan in time to execute it in August. Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman initially gave the states until Jan. 31. When that deadline came and went, Burman set a new one: By March 19, she wants the states to submit any final input they might have before her agency takes action on its own to address the river crisis.

The as-yet-unfinished drought plan calls for Nevada, Arizona and, eventually, California to voluntarily reduce their use of the river and leave more water in Lake Mead. Meanwhile, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming would send more water downstream to prop up Lake Powell and protect hydropower generation at Glen Canyon Dam.

Fulp said federal officials would rather not step in if they don’t have to, but time is running short.

For one thing, Mexico has agreed to share in the emergency drought cuts on the river, but only if the plan among the states is finalized. Fulp said it could take as much as 100 days to complete all the bureaucratic work needed to trigger Mexico’s participation, so “the time is now” to finish the interstate deal so the drought response can be implemented in August, when the bureau issues its river operations plan for the coming year.

Will it be enough?

Already, though, experts are debating whether the plan will do enough to keep the river’s two largest reservoirs from crashing.

Former Arizona Gov. and U.S. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt called the drought plan “an interim solution” and urged water users to immediately begin discussing a more difficult, long-term fix for the overtaxed river, one that’s likely to mean permanent reductions for at least some water users.

Former Southern Nevada Water Authority chief Pat Mulroy compared the drought contingency plan to a Band-Aid — something that will cover up a wound but won’t necessarily make it better.

“DCP has to happen,” said Mulroy. “But it’s a tourniquet. It is not going to solve the problem.”

She said it’s time for the river states to set aside self-interest and start sharing the water in a way that helps everyone without creating winners and losers.

“We’ve got to stop thinking about this in pieces. The very same mindset that made us finally realize that Southern Nevada needed (the Southern Nevada Water Authority) has to translate into the larger Colorado River community,” Mulroy said. “This isn’t about sound bites. This isn’t about placating your constituents. It’s about getting beyond that and looking at the entirety of the system.”

Current water authority General Manager John Entsminger agrees about the need for collaboration, but he doesn’t care for Mulroy’s analogy.

“I think it’s a lot more than a Band-Aid,” he said. “The Drought Contingency Plan is the next step in the evolution of how the seven states and Mexico operate this river system and ensure that we have the steps in place to keep the system from crashing. If we can maintain that level of interstate and international cooperation and maintain the political will that it has taken over the last 20 years to make these things happen, then we’re going to be OK.”

‘How vulnerable am I?’

But what if the drought has only just begun?

UNLV physics and astronomy professor George Rhee said it’s plausible that the nearly 20-year dry spell on the Colorado River could drag on for an additional 30 years.


Ivan Lau of Las Vegas is seen through a partially submerged tire as he fishes near Boulder Harbor at Lake Mead National Recreation Area in September 2018. (Richard Brian/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

A statistical analysis he published last year in the Journal of Climate with fellow UNLV researchers Jimmy Salazaar and Corwin Grigg ends with this startling statement: “We conclude with an 80 percent probability that the current drought will continue long enough into the future to deplete all existing water storages for the Colorado River system.”

Responding to something like that, Rhee said, requires a far more aggressive emergency plan than the one being debated by the river states.

“The real question we should be asking is, How vulnerable am I to what’s happening?”

Rhee also worries that, because of rising temperatures and flaws in past calculations, water managers might be significantly underestimating how much water evaporates from Lake Mead every year. As a result, he said, “the fix of the Drought Contingency Plan merely compensates for incorrect accounting rather than the root cause of the problem, which is climate change.”

Colorado State University climate scientist Brad Udall said his research suggests the river could see its flow decline by as much as 55 percent by the year 2100.

He called the drought plan a good first step toward coming to grips with the Colorado’s alarming new reality.

“The DCP needs to lead to a CCP — a climate change plan,” Udall said. “We need some painful but all-reaching solution.”

Contact Henry Brean at hbrean@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350. Follow @RefriedBrean on Twitter.


A buoy is seen high and dry near the defunct Echo Bay Marina at Lake Mead National Recreation Area on in September 2018. (Richard Brian/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

The cuts in question
The Drought Contingency Plan for the Lower Colorado River Basin calls for the following voluntary cuts based on the water level in Lake Mead, which sits at about 1,088 feet above sea level this the projected level on March 1:

Jan. 1 lake level between 1,090 and 1,045 feet:
■ Nevada: 8,000 acre-feet
■ Arizona: 192,000

Between 1,045 and 1,040 feet:
■ Nevada: 10,000
■ Arizona: 240,000
■ California: 200,000

At or below 1,040 feet:
■ Nevada: 10,000
■ Arizona: 240,000
■ California: Starts at 250,000 and increases by 50,000 for each additional 5-foot drop in the lake.

One acre-foot of water will supply two average Las Vegas Valley homes for just over one year.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
PART 6: Southern Nevada water agency intensifies turf war

Residents and cities are buying into the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s campaign against ornamental sod. Since 1999, more than 187 million square feet of grass have been removed and untold millions more were never planted.

Politics Videos
Clark County 2019 Election Results - Video
The 2019 Elections wrap up in Clark County including an upset in the Boulder City Mayor race.
Olivia Diaz talks about her win in Ward 3 - VIDEO
Las Vegas City Councilwoman-elect Olivia Diaz talks about her election win in Ward 3 and what lies ahead for her.
Greene discusses Read by 3 and Opportunity Scholarships - VIDEO
The Nevada Legislative Session is over and the results are mixed for Nevada students, according to Tom Greene, Senior regional legislative director, Excel in Ed in Action.
Bernie Sanders visits Las Vegas
Sen. Bernie Sanders made a stop at Roy W. Martin middle school on Thursday, during his campaign trail.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Las Vegas
Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris castigated President Donald Trump’s merit-based immigration plan, saying it was “short-sighted” and overlooked the cultural significance of family, during a campaign stop in Las Vegas. “We cannot allow people to start parsing and pointing fingers and creating hierarchies among immigrants,” Harris told Asian Pacific Islander leaders at a Chinatown restaurant, one of two appearances she made Thursday.
The Right Take New Education Funding Plan - VIDEO
On Monday, Senate Education Committee chair Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, released a new education funding formula. For years, many Democrat politicians have criticized the current education funding formula, called the Nevada Plan. They claim it’s old and outdated. Their biggest beef is that it doesn’t allocate more money for students who are English Language Learners or live in poverty. The theory is that it’s harder to educate those students and so they need additional services, which costs additional money.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Nevada
California Senator Kamala Harris meets with One APIA Nevada, a nonprofit organization that advocates for policies empowering Asian Pacific Islander Nevadans. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ben Carson talks housing (Audio only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Ben Carson visits the RJ (Full Audio Only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Former Vice President Joe Biden campaigns in Nevada
After campaigning at the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 16 in Henderson, former Vice President Joe Biden spoke with the Review-Journal.
Student serenades Mayor Carolyn Goodman at swearing in
Students from the school she founded, The Meadows School, serenaded Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman during a swearing in ceremony for her third and final term. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Al Gore Speaks At UNLV About Climate Change - Video
Former Vice President of the United States Al Gore talks to an audience at UNLV about the effects of Climate change and how to switch to renewable sources of energy.
Forum on Wages and Working People Highlights - VIDEO
Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro, and John Hickenlooper speak in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Nevada Politics Today Valerie Weber - VIDEO
Valerie Weber sits down with Victor Joecks to discuss her policies and why she is running for Ward 2 of the Las Vegas City Council.
Cory Booker speaks at UNLV
US Senator Cory Booker speaks at UNLV during a Young Democrats meet and greet on Thursday, April 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
May-Brown describes why some with disabilities need the subminimum wage - VIDEO
Eliminating the subminimum wage will end training and work opportunities for some members of the disabled community. Instead of doing something productive, they would be relegated to adult day care. That’s according to Tracy May-Brown, Opportunity Village’s director of advocacy, board and government relations.
Commission’s decision will delay Red Rock Canyon development
The Clark County Commission Wednesday rejected a developer’s request to approve a preliminary plan for 3,000 homes overlooking Red Rock Canyon before a federal agency grants permission for a roadway leading to the site.
Clark County commissioner calls on landlords to bring properties up to code
Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom has called on landlords in older parts of the valley to bring their properties up to code and keep them well-maintained or face the prospect of inspections, fines and citations. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Harry Reid speaks out against anti-Semitism
Unnerved by the rise in anti-Semitic hate speech and the general pervasiveness of bigotry, including in Nevada, former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid organized an educational forum at UNLV on Thursday as part of his call to unite people against it. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
President Trump speaks to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas
President Donald Trump spoke at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas and updated on Israeli relations. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trump says border wall will have 'hundreds of miles' built by end of next year
President Donald Trump spoke at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas and discussed the progress of the border wall and the current relations there. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Protesters disrupt Trump's speech
Just as President Donald Trump started to make his opening remarks during his appearance at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Leadership Meeting, protesters disrupted his speech. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Roerink On The Problems With Taking Water From Eastern Nevada - Video
The Southern Nevada Water Authority wants to take billions of gallons of water that doesn’t exist from Eastern Nevada via a pipeline that would cost ratepayers $15 billion. Doing so would devastate the wildlife and people who live there. That’s according to Kyle Roerink, executive director of the Great Basin Water Network, which opposes the pipeline.
Las Vegas Election Night Wrap-Up
The Review-Journal's Politics and Government Editor, Steve Sebelius, wraps up election night. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Olivia Diaz Speaks To Ward 3 Supporters After Primary Election - Video
Olivia Diaz speaks to her supporters at a election party after results started coming in for the Ward 3 primaries.
Oscar Goodman Speaks On Behalf Of Mayor At Primary Win (edited)
Oscar Goodman spoke Tuesday night on behalf of his wife, Carolyn, who won the mayoral primary election. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Oscar Goodman Speaks On Behalf Of Mayor At Primary Win (Full)
Oscar Goodman spoke Tuesday night on behalf of his wife Carolyn, who won the mayoral primary election. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Gun Debate Shows Limits Of Government - Video
On Monday, the Assembly and Senate Judiciary Committees held a joint hearing on Assembly Bill 291. It would ban bump stocks and allow local governments to pass additional restrictions on firearms.
Lucy Flores speaks out about Biden incident
Former Nevada assemblywoman, Lucy Flores, expresses her feelings about an incident with former Vice President Joe Biden in 2014. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Harry Reid takes the stand in injury lawsuit
Former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid took the stand on Thursday in the product liability lawsuit brought against the makers of a resistance exercise band that Reid blames for blinding him in one eye.
Jurors hear opening statements in Reid personal injury trial
Opening statements were made on Tuesday in the product liability lawsuit brought by Harry Reid against against the makers of a resistance exercise band that Reid blames for blinding him in one eye.
Mayor Goodman delivers Meals on Wheels
Mayor Carolyn Goodman delivers Meals on Wheels to seniors on March 26, 2019.
Las Vegas City Council Ward 1 race
Candidates for Las Vegas City Council Ward 1. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Beto O’Rourke campaigns in Las Vegas
Democratic presidential candidate and former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke addresses attendees during a campaign stop at Arandas Taqueria in Las Vegas on Sunday, March 24, 2019. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Beto O'Rourke House Party in Las Vegas
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke delivered a message of unity inside a Las Vegas living room Saturday night, outlining a mission to bridge the divide in a polarized America and rally behind “big defining ambitions that we have in common.” (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand talks at Atomic Liquors
Democrat presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand talks to her supporters at Atomic Liquors.
Presidential candidate Gillibrand meets with UNLV Immigration Clinic student attorneys
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., meets with UNLV Immigration Clinic student attorneys at her first stop in Nevada as a candidate Thursday, March 21, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto promotes the Rebuild America’s Schools Act
U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., co-sponsor of the Rebuild America’s Schools Act, speaks at Hoggard Elementary School in Las Vegas to promote the bill that would provide $100 billion for infrastructure improvements at schools across the country. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Scholar Max Eden on how restorative justice decreases student achievement - VIDEO
Across the country, restorative justice is lowering test scores and increasing the number of students who feel unsafe at schools. That’s according to Max Eden, a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute, who recently released a study discipline reform.
NV Dems Want To Gut Read By Three - Video
Nevada’s students have a major problem. They aren’t very good at reading. In 2017, just 31 percent of fourth graders were proficient at reading according to the National Assessment of Education Progress. The number proficient falls to 28 percent in eighth grade. Read by Three could change that. If a student can’t read at grade level by the end of third grade, he repeats the grade.
Presidential hopeful Tulsi Gabbard stumps in Las Vegas
Presidential hopeful U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, holds a meet and greet at the Asian Culture Center in downtown Las Vegas Monday, March 18, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto