Opinions Differ on NV Water Supplies

RENO, Nev. (AP) - Local government leaders told a legislative panel there is sufficient water in western Nevada to accommodate planned development, while critics argued the growth outstrips available supplies.

Officials from Churchill, Washoe, Lyon, Douglas and Storey counties, Carson City and Fallon testified Monday before the Legislative Committee to Oversee the Western Regional Water Commission.

Established last year, the commission was formed to help develop plans to manage water supplies in the region and search for new water.

"We have to be very careful in the way we manage our water resources," Eleanor Lockwood, planning director for Churchill County, said. "We are trying to do what is best for our community in light of what is going on all around us."

Bob Fulkerson of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada cited studies showing existing water supplies can serve 600,000 residents in Washoe County, but that planned development could raise the population to 1.2 million.

PLAN has launched an initiative petition to put a Nov. 4 ballot question before voters that would require regional planning in Washoe County to be based on sustainable water supplies.

"The bottom line is the quality of life is declining in our region. We don't see it getting better with 600,000 more people than we have water for," Fulkerson said.

He added that climate change caused by global warming could dramatically reduce the mountain snowpack that provides the region's water.

Outside of the Reno area, officials from nearby counties also provided legislators with a snapshot of their water supply situations.

Carl Ruschmeyer, public works director for Douglas County, said water supplies for the Carson Valley appear adequate to handle planned development.

"It's clear there are available water rights and there is sufficient water to serve projected growth," Ruschmeyer said. "The goal is to plan for a sustainable community."

Others spoke of challenges in coming up with needed water in certain areas. While a slow growth rate in the Virginia City area should mean plenty of water exists for the future there, coming up with water needed for new tenants at the huge Tahoe-Reno Industrial Park has been "very difficult," said Greg "Bum" Hess, chairman of the Storey County Commission.

Water demands across the region make cooperation key, others said. That's particularly true along the Carson River, which has no upstream dam and reservoir with which to store water.

Linked water delivery systems crossing the borders of Carson City, Lyon County and Douglas County are one effective method to help meet the region's water demands in times of need, officials said.

Edwin James of the Carson Water Subconservancy District said greater use of reclaimed water for agriculture could allow more Carson River water for municipal use.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)