Las Vegas has been living on borrowed time ever since it was founded in 1905. Originally a way station, offering rest and refueling for those traveling to California by rail, Las Vegas became popular because of its water supplies. These springs were never substantial enough to maintain dozens of lavish casinos, golf courses, and millions of people, however. They ran dry long ago, and since then, Las Vegas has depended on water siphoned from the already struggling Colorado River.

Faced with the very real idea that Las Vegas might run out of water completely in the next decade, the Southern Nevada Water Authority fashioned a tricky plan to build a massive pipeline that would carry water from rural counties along the Nevada-Utah line to Sin City. The Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation, who live in these rural counties, say the project is both unfair and environmentally-devastating.

The Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation (CTGR) covers more than 100,000 acres in White Pine County as well as Juab and Tooele counties in Utah. Its residents are descendants of bands of Indians who settled in eastern Nevada and western Utah. They say the BLM’s approval of the pipeline project ignores rights guaranteed to the Goshute reservation by the U.S. Constitution and the Supreme Court.

“The BLM is shoving this massive and reckless project down the throats of Indian tribes despite the fact that the federal government has a trust responsibility to preserve and protect all Indian tribal trust assets, which definitely includes water,” said CTGR Vice Chair Madeline Greymountain.

In March, Nevada State Engineer Jason King granted the Southern Nevada Water Authority permission to pump up to 84,000 acre-feet of groundwater a year from four rural valleys in Lincoln and White Pine counties. Outcry from environmental groups, local governments, Indian tribes, ranchers and others caused the BLM to conduct an environmental impact statement on the project.

“We will not go away and will take all actions necessary to stop this attempt to take our water,” Naranjo said CTGR Chairman Ed Naranjoid. “Water is life to us (and) if the federal government takes it away, we will cease to be a people.”

The 5,000-page report produced from this impact assessment is now open for a 60-day review before the federal agency issues a final record of decision on the water authority‚Äôs right of way application.

Photo Credit: http2007/Flickr