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LETTER: Las Vegas and the Colorado River

In response to your Monday editorial on the Colorado River:

No, Las Vegas is not to blame for the crashing elevations at Lakes Mead and Lake Powell. But pretending that the growth machine can live on forever is naive and dangerous.

Southern Nevada has to live within its means. While the regional water provider can nearly double Nevada’s small share of the river, return flow credits and conservation are not a license to invite the masses and grow in every corner of the desert.

There is no denying that agriculture is the largest user on the river. But aridification remains our greatest threat. Your editorial failed to mention the well-known fact that climate change has reduced flows on the river by 20 percent since 2000. That phenomenon is likely to continue, exacerbating an already troubling situation.

Every user must cut back and carefully plan for a future in which there will be considerably less water in the system than there is today. The Southern Nevada Water Authority’s own data show that in the coming decades Lake Mead could be 100 feet below its 2022 record low point.

The key will be working with farming communities to permanently retire water rights and tactfully planning urban communities with sustainable, reliable sources of supply. It’s a fools errand to think that taking water from farmers to fill more cities will solve all our problems. That strategy bets big on repurposing with water that might not exist in the near future.

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