SALT LAKE CITY — A battle over water rights has continued between Utah and Nevada for the groundwater in Snake Valley, and several Utah groups are urging Gov. Gary Herbert not to sign the agreement.
The governor's signature would give Nevada rights to mine water in the Snake Valley. Nevada representatives said the water would mostly be used to ensure Las Vegas doesn't have water shortages in the future.
The Nevada board has proposed the idea of mining an aquifer the size of Vermont, located underground near the Utah-Nevada border. However, even though Uthans would still have access to the water, the $15 billion project has brought up concerns.
"There are massive impacts caused by signing this agreement, not the least of which is this is a water mining operation," said Zach Frankel, representative from the Utah Rivers Council. "This is not a sustainable water policy."
Water, air quality, agricultural and economic impacts are all reasons cited by 27 separate groups in a letter to Herbert, urging him not to sign the agreement.
"I feel it's stealing our most valuable resource," said Rupert Steele, representative of the Confederate Band of Goshute Indians. Steele is among those opposing the shared water rights.
Herbert said the decision is a tough one, and he has not decided yet if he will sign the agreement.
"I can promise you all that my goal is very clear," Herbert said. "We will not give up one molecule of water to Nevada that is Utah water. We will protect the rights of those who already have water rights on (the) Utah side, and we're concerned about those on the Nevada side, too."
The governor said he expects to decide whether to sign the agreement in a few weeks. He said he fears that the water battle that could devastate people in the west desert.