Water supply

A lack of private land isn’t the only hurdle to economic development and diversification in Nevada (see above). A Brookings Mountain West report, conducted for the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, says another critical limitation is the state’s lack of water resources.

Industries from mining to manufacturing and energy to agriculture require vast amounts of water, and Nevada is an arid desert. Las Vegas, the state’s population center and economic engine, has grown into a tourism-driven metropolis only because the Colorado River happens to run past it.

A decade of drought has exposed the region’s over-dependence on the Colorado River. Although a very successful conservation campaign has decreased overall water consumption even as the valley’s population has increased, the current constraints on our water supply are a blockade to many businesses that otherwise might be interested in coming here.

For these reasons, the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s plan to pipe groundwater from rural east-central Nevada to Las Vegas is as critical to economic diversification as improving public schools and higher education.

Coincidentally, one of the main arguments against the pipeline project — the subject of current state hearings — has been economic development and diversification. Leaders of rural counties have claimed that pumping up to 126,000 acre-feet of groundwater from their part of the state would deny them the ability to expand their own economies.

But that argument ignores reality: Nevada’s rural counties don’t have the money needed to develop those water resources. The Las Vegas Valley does.

It’s possible that the pipeline, like a highway, could become a tool for economic development all along its route, not just at its end. In that regard, the rurals might well realize jobs and investment as a result of the pipeline’s construction. No one will allow this project to damage the environment.

Groundwater is a state resource, not a local one. And if Nevada is going to realize the goals of the Brookings report, all state resources must be put to their most productive possible use.

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