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LAS VEGAS (AP) -- The Southern Nevada Water Authority has struck a $7.2 million deal with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to use church water rights to help slake the thirst of the Las Vegas area, an official said.
A 20-year lease lets the Las Vegas-based water agency draw 2,001 acre-feet of water a year, or enough to serve some 4,000 homes, with an option for two 10-year extensions.
Kay Brothers, deputy Southern Nevada Water Authority general manager, called the agreement the first the water agency has reached to procure water from the Mormon church.
Because the Muddy River empties into Lake Mead and the authority intends to draw the water using existing intakes at the reservoir, it will require federal Interior Department approval, which officials said they hoped to have by the end of 2007. The Colorado River reservoir behind Hoover Dam currently provides about 90 percent of southern Nevada's drinking water.
The Moapa Valley Water District will get a similar amount of Muddy River water under the lease agreement. Some of that water would be used to supply 1,600 homes in a residential development proposed in the Moapa Valley, about 45 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
Officials with the Salt Lake City-based church declined comment on land holdings and water rights in the region. Church spokeswoman Kim Farah told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that church farms and ranches supply food to the church's welfare program for needy members and for humanitarian outreach worldwide.
The Las Vegas agreement focuses on Warm Springs Ranch, which the church bought in 1978 within the headwaters of the Muddy River, about 60 miles northeast of Las Vegas. The property was once owned by Howard Hughes. In recent years, the church has sold off much of the ranch but kept water rights.
About six years ago, the church began leasing some Muddy River rights for use as cooling water at Nevada Power's coal-fired Reid Gardner power plant in Moapa Valley.
(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)