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Southern Nevada will have access to enough water for decades, official says

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Steve Marcus

John Entsminger, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, moderates a panel discussion during the Business of Water Summit 2.0 at the Springs Preserve Thursday, August 28, 2014.

Tue, Sep 22, 2015 (2:03 p.m.)

The water needed for the Las Vegas area for more than 40 years will be available, a water official said Tuesday, but Southern Nevada will continue its fight to pump millions of gallons a year from rural Nevada.

“Our community has told us to get the shovel ready but don’t start digging a hole yet,” said John Entsminger, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

Entsminger, attending the three-day Governor’s Drought Summit, outlined the steps the authority has taken to ensure there is enough water for a 40 percent increase in the area's population by 2040.

The applications to pump water through a $3.2 billion pipeline from White Pine and Lincoln counties are tied up in court.

“The resource plan we took to our board last week shows Southern Nevada has a safe and secure water supply through the 2060s” under a worst-case scenario, he said. There are backup plans in case more is needed, he said.

Ninety percent of the region's water comes from the Colorado River, and 10 percent comes from underground resources, Entsminger told the forum. He said $2.5 billion has been spent to improve the system in the past 10 years.

Since 1989, Las Vegas has sought water rights from four valleys in rural Nevada. A former state engineer granted part of the request, but courts overturned it.

Jason King, the present state engineer, held six weeks of hearings and ruled the water authority could get an estimated 84,000 acre-feet. But a district judge held that King miscalculated and ordered him to take additional evidence.

An acre-foot of water is about 326,000 gallons.

The case and other appeals ended up in the Nevada Supreme Court. King has held the case in abeyance until the court resolves all the issues.

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