Scientists warn against sending water to Las Vegas

Save Story

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

SALT LAKE CITY -- A coalition of 147 scientists is calling on the governors of Utah and Nevada to pull the plug on a massive transfer of water to Las Vegas.

They're warning of an environmental disaster similar to an infamous case involving Los Angeles, and critics say it will affect everyone who breathes in the Salt Lake Valley.

If the big players in Las Vegas get their way, they'll build a 300 mile pipeline and drill wells on Utah's western border.

Scientists warn against sending water to Las Vegas

Terry Marasco a business owner in Baker, Nev., came to Salt Lake with a warning message from 147 scientists. He said, "They would de-water an area the size of Vermont."

He says Las Vegas doesn't really need water that's critical to Utah and Nevada ranchers. "There are a couple of studies out that if they conserve like Albuquerque and Tucson, they wouldn't need the pipeline," he said.

Rancher Dean Baker showed us a dried-up patch of western Utah that used to have a spring and a nice well. He said, "Used to be a pond here and a marsh and what-not, and it's gone now."

Ranchers themselves goofed up in that instance on a small scale by over-pumping for hay fields. Baker is afraid Las Vegas will make the same mistake on a huge scale. {# dust} "It would lower the water table enough that many of the smaller springs would dry up," he said.

The scientists agree. Their letter to the two governors says the water for Las Vegas "cannot be removed without substantially lowering the groundwater table."

Critics predict a repeat of a nightmare scenario in California; 100 years ago the Owens Valley was lush, but Los Angeles took the water and turned it into a dust bowl.

Satellite photos show Western Utah is already prone to major dust events, and the critics say it will get far worse if the water table drops.

Scientists warn against sending water to Las Vegas

"And if the winds come out of the west, it would blow it right over towards the Wasatch Front," Baker said.

Recently, Los Angeles was ordered to fix some of the damage in Owens Valley at a cost of more than a half-billion dollars.

Eighty years later they're having to pay the piper. And if the governor signs an agreement without some financial protections for Utah, it's going to be the same story," Marasco said.

State officials say no decisions will be made until scientific studies are complete. Under a law passed several years ago by Congress, Las Vegas can't take the water unless both states agree to it.


Most recent Utah stories

Related topics

John Hollenhorst


    Get informative articles and interesting stories delivered to your inbox weekly. Subscribe to the Trending 5.
    By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

    KSL Weather Forecast