Nevada's top state water official has dealt a severe blow to long-fought plans for Las Vegas to pump drinking water from arid valleys just west of the Nevada-Utah state line.
State Engineer Jason King's ruling Friday effectively rescinds earlier approvals for Southern Nevada Water Authority groundwater rights in vast rural tracts in Lincoln and White Pine counties.
The decision followed hearings by King last year on a state judge's order to recalculate if there was enough water underground to supply the 250-mile pipeline.
Officials have called the project essential if drought keeps shrinking the Lake Mead reservoir on the Colorado River. The lake supplies 90 percent of Las Vegas drinking water.
The Southern Nevada Water Authority released a statement Friday afternoon.
Today’s ruling by the Office of the Nevada State Engineer demonstrates the difficulty it faced in applying State Water Law while also complying with the Court’s contradictory remand order. The ruling serves as a prerequisite for the State Engineer to challenge aspects of the remand order and we look forward to these issues being resolved as the legal process moves forward in the District Court and the Nevada Supreme Court. The ruling makes clear that there is water available in these basins for appropriation but the State Engineer is prevented from doing so by the scope of the remand instructions, which impose unprecedented requirements into the science of water appropriation in Nevada. Southern Nevada, which is home to 73 percent of the population in the state, uses less than 5 percent of the state’s total available water supply.
Opponents predicted the multi-billion dollar pipeline would turn the Spring, Cave, Dry Lake and Delamar valleys to dustbowls.