Sunday, June 18, 2017

Watergrab Tour Spring Valley Forest

Spring Valley reminds me of a line from an old Rage Against the Machine song (No Shelter):
bury the past, rob us blind …and left nothing behind.”


This was once a happy place. My ancestors came here to socialize and dance. This was a gathering place. My ancestors were hunter/gatherers who lived in small groups of extended family. But sometimes these small groups would get together for what we might now call a Fandango or a Pow Wow. This was where my ancestors hooked up. This was a place to fall in love.

But that ended with the massacres.

Now the memories are all painful. We come here now to remember all that was taken from us – the lives, the land, the game, the water. Little here is ours now. But, at least we can still come here to visit. 

Spring Valley with Great Basin National Park in background
 

As anyone can see, this “test” well has not been decommissioned. It sits here, waiting to be used as a Watergrab well. If you look uphill, you can see the source of water; the Great Basin National Park. If you look downhill, you can see the swamp cedar forest. This well was obviously placed here to steal the water for that forest. And the groundwater table doesn't have to drop very far to kill this whole forest.

In a matter of years, not decades, this whole valley forest could die. And even our memories of this place will die with it. All that will be left will be some words in some old unread books.

This forest, and the Joshua tree forest in Delamar Valley, are some of the last of Nevada's valley forests. These places matter. In fact, they matter far more than a forest of invasive species of palm trees in Las Vegas that would die in a week without human intervention.

The investors in Las Vegas growth, many of whom don't even live in Las Vegas, don't care about Rural Nevada. All they care about are the numbers they have in their banks. But Spring Valley is a bank too. It is a natural bank of genetic options Life on Earth has to adapt to changes in the Environment. And the Environment is changing. There may be something out here that Life on Earth will desperately need to keep a natural balance – to keep humanity alive. No one knows.

What we do know is that killing this rare high desert valley forest with so much history is wrong. Especially when we know that most of the water would be used to water decorative shrubbery in Southern Nevada. What an extravagant waste. In fact, it could be argued that we can't think of anything stupider to do with this water.

And speaking of stupid – and needlessly greedy; Southern Nevada has tried twice to gut the environmental and economic protections of Nevada Water Law to expedite this Watergrab exportation. We don't want to change Nevada Water Law to make it easier to exploit. We want to change Nevada Water Law to make it easier to live sustainably.

We need a rational, reasonable, respectful, long-term alternative to taking everything and leaving nothing for future generations. This is why you are here.

Watergrab Tour South Spring Valley

About a mile off the highway there is a “test” well that the SNWA paid to drill – still ready to go – ready to be hooked up to the Watergrab pipeline. Across the valley is the Great Basin National Park. More SNWA “test” wells ring both the South and the West faces of the Park. The brutal efficiency of this expansive scheme of exploitation is palpable.

The Watergrab would start in Delamar Valley, at about the same latitude as Pahranagat. It goes up through Dry Lake Valley into Cave Valley. Muleshoe Valley is bound to be effected. And Lake Valley, where Geyser Ranch is, will be drained. And then, of course, there's Spring Valley – and a number of other valleys that will be essentially drained of their own unique life on Earth. 

Schell Creek Wilderness with Great Basin National Park in background
 

But that's not it. Water flows downhill, even underground. Which means many wilderness areas, numerous big game supporting forests, and a National Park are at risk.

The SNWA Groundwater Development Project (the Watergrab) is a huge project, with huge costs and huge consequences. And maybe most importantly, nobody really knows how much water is actually here. The Watergrab could also be a huge disappointment.

Watergrab Tour Geyser Ranch

Bring your binoculars! The SNWA's Geyser Ranch has changed! Apparently, there aren't any cattle in Lake Valley this Summer. Which means, off in the distance; you might see herds of wild horses, antelope – and when I was there last (over Memorial Day Weekend) I saw a hundred head of elk (during the middle of the day).

Apparently, the SNWA no longer has to prove up on their water rights at the Geyser Ranch. That was something good that came out of the 2017 State Legislature. There should be no incentive to waste water. But the result has been intriguing. The SNWA has tied up whole valleys of water for almost thirty years. Some of these valleys still look natural because of that. And Geyser Ranch has gone feral. People are going to come from miles around to see these elk.

There has been something positive about the Watergrab.
Nobody else has taken the water.
Some part of all this wrong feels right.

Why not bank some of Nevada's water?
Why not save some water for the future?
Nobody's going thirsty in Las Vegas. But if people actually were going thirsty in Las Vegas, it sure would be nice not to have wasted this water watering palm trees. And if we get to keep some truly beautiful natural places – at least until genuine desperation sets in – why not?

Watergrab Tour Pony Springs

Across the valley from Pony Springs is a huge pinion/juniper “restoration” site. It's plain to see that all that water from all that clear-cut logged forest ended up on that farm downhill.

Now, as a society, we may choose to do these things and accept the tradeoffs. But I don't remember voting on it. This is happening all over the West. Millions of trees are being killed. And what's the perpetrators stated reason? To save the Sage Grouse. But they don't have much evidence that clear-cut logging actually works. Yes, sage grouse like to nest in more open areas. But that doesn't prove there are more sage grouse. The population data is inconclusive. Think about it; if sage grouse populations increased because of pinion juniper “restoration,” they would have told us years ago. Which means the obvious, millions of trees are being killed for some other reason. And that reason is obviously water.

In the valley to the West, Cave Valley, there are no farms or ranches downstream of the pinion/juniper clear-cut sites. There is just the proposed SNWA watergrab pipeline. The SNWA has publicly supported pinion/juniper “restoration.” So, is pinion/juniper clear-cut logging just to export more water, or is it to kill off the forests before the Watergrab – so that there won't be any dried up forests to take pictures of? 
Cave Valley before "restoration"
 

Watergrab Tour of Delamar Valley


There is a vast Joshua tree forest in Delamar Valley – the most spectacular in all of Nevada.

But this whole desert forest is at risk if the valley's groundwater is exported South. Joshua trees need groundwater. But because of Nevada Water Law; Joshua trees are what Nevada Water officials refer as “phreatophytes.” Which, cynically explained means; they are worthless and are wasting us humans' water. And Nevada Water Law essentially allows us to kill them all eventually – legally. Yes, there are protections in Nevada Water Law for the environment. But there was an attempt in the Special Session of the Nevada Legislature in 2015 to eliminate those protections. And why? Obviously; because somebody wants to kill this forest.

Someone already has killed the Joshua tree forest out at Meadview, Arizona. And Cadiz Inc. wants to drain the water out from under them in California.

Desert valley forests are the most threatened forests in the West. And there weren't many of them in the first place. What we could be witnessing here is the decline of an ecosystem – like the coral bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef.

But it doesn't have to be that way.

Southern Nevada has options.
One of those options is to improve Nevada Water Law. But that's not going to happen. Assembly Bill 298, introduced this 2017 Nevada Legislative session, had numerous changes that expedited taking every drop. They wanted to drastically weaken existing water rights and protections for the Environment. Essentially, they wanted to water mine. And they even wanted to be exempt from judicial review. Moreover, AB298 improperly prioritized “mitigation water” so that even more conflicts would have occurred. Which is compounded by the exemption from the permitting process to take water from some place else to use as mitigation water – which further propagates the exploitation to even more areas.

Southern Nevada has options.
Another one of those options is to build PV solar power facilities to trade solar power for desalinated water. The solar power could be generated on Lake Mead, to reduce evaporative losses. The solar power could be sent to California on Hoover Dam power lines. And the solar power could desalinate water on the Coast. This could provide Californians with desalinated water, which could be traded for more water for Southern Nevada from the Colorado River. No pipeline necessary. This idea even won an MIT award. And maybe most importantly; the authors claimed the SNWA customers could save eight billion dollars over the Watergrab.

Southern Nevada has options.
Another option is not to drive Southern Nevada to crisis by growing too fast. Which means being truthful to people developers want to move to Southern Nevada. And the truth is; with exponential growth, it's just a matter of time until there won't be enough to go around. However, the predictions of population growth that the SNWA uses show gradual linear population growth in Southern Nevada until 2055. Now think about how absurd that is. The rest of the population of the Earth is growing exponentially – just from people having babies. And on top of that; Southern Nevada developers want back explosive growth, like the “good old days” when thousands of people a month moved to Southern Nevada. But apparently, the only way they can pull that con off is to tell people there won't be explosive growth. That's lying; to sucker people to move to a place without enough water. Greed is driving Southern Nevada to crisis.

Somebody wants to “use” this water. Like somehow it isn't being used here.

Southern Nevada has options.
They don't have to pay billions to commit ecocide.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Water Taker Fail #3

There will be an effort to gut Nevada water law in the Nevada Legislature... again.