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Utah seeks aquifer protection in water deal with Nevada

SALT LAKE CITY — Negotiations between Utah and Nevada over a proposal to suck some water from the Snake Valley and send it to Las Vegas are focusing on how to share the water without damaging the aquifer, a top Utah official said.

Mike Styler, director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources, said the state is intent on ensuring that the Snake Valley won’t dry up once the pipeline project is complete.

“We support the pipeline; you just can’t have our water,” Styler said of negotiations with Nevada.

He gave an update on discussions Thursday to members of the Utah chapter of the American Society for Public Administration.

He said the two states are close to a federally required agreement over how to divvy up water in the aquifer.

The deal would allow a pipeline to tap into the valley’s aquifer, which stretches across both states, so up to 16 billion gallons of water a year could be delivered to Las Vegas. Research continues on how much water is available in the Snake Valley aquifer.

The two states started negotiating shortly after a 2004 federal law required the Bureau of Land Management to grant a right of way for a pipeline.

Nevada State Engineer Tracy Taylor is expected to make a decision about Snake Valley and the pipeline next fall.

Styler said the Snake Valley aquifer has some water available to send to the Southern Nevada Water Authority but Utah officials want to make sure there’s enough left for its residents and for wildlife habitat, particularly an area called Fish Springs.

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