Las Vegas Sun

October 22, 2014

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Coyote Springs cuts a water deal

An embryonic development 60 miles north of Las Vegas and the regional water wholesaler for Southern Nevada have a tentative agreement to operate wells and divide water in the open desert.

A Southern Nevada Water Authority official said the agreement will allow the regional agency to bring more water to the urban area from Lake Mead.

At a meeting today, the seven-member Water Authority board is scheduled to consider the agreement establishing the terms for construction of pipelines from four wells in Coyote Valley, a site straddling the Clark-Lincoln County line where developers hope to build 160,000 homes.

The Water Authority plans to connect to the wells, which already are producing more than a billion gallons annually for a golf course, greenhouses and homes to be built next year. The agreement will allow Coyote Springs to pump more than 13,000 acre-feet annually within the development, a move that will help scientists gauge how much ground water is available in the area. (An acre-foot of water equals roughly 326,000 gallons.)

The latest agreement is the fourth between the Water Authority and Coyote Springs, a development on former federal land now owned by prominent Reno lobbyist and attorney Harvey Whittemore.

While the agreement itself is an incremental change, its approval would open the door to providing more water for Las Vegas, said John Entsminger, the Water Authority's deputy general counsel.

Entsminger said the agreement will mean that the Water Authority will tie onto the four wells already producing water in Coyote Springs, and pump that water to the Moapa Valley Water District in northern Clark County. The Water Authority is in negotiations with the federal government and six other states that use Colorado River water to "wheel" water through tributaries to the lake, which provides 90 percent of the water needs for Clark County's cities.

The wells would pump 9,000 acre-feet annually to the Moapa Valley water agency, which would release the water into the Muddy River, where it would flow into Lake Mead. With the expected approval of the other six Colorado River states, the Water Authority could take the 9,000 acre-feet - enough for more than 15,000 households - from the lake.

Ongoing talks among the states and federal government are expected to produce new rules on sharing the Colorado River and Lake Mead within two years.

The agreement between Coyote Springs and the Water Authority sets up the broad outlines for cooperation, but does not put a price tag on the pipelines that the Water Authority will build. Entsminger said that those costs have not been determined.

He said the Coyote Springs community would continue to use 4,600 acre-feet that the wells already are producing.

"From an infrastructure-sharing standpoint, this is a really positive step for the two groups to be working together," Entsminger said.

Whittemore agreed, citing the agreement as evidence of regional cooperation among water providers. Such cooperation will be important to Coyote Springs, which may need to use the Water Authority's planned pipelines through Lincoln County, north of Clark County, to transport water to the new community.

"This is an important step in the process of putting water to beneficial use in the Coyote Springs basin," he said. "This really develops advantages for all the parties.

"This is extremely important for the community and the region to show that these resources are going to continue to be used on a cooperative basis. Anytime you're talking about water you're talking about important issues for the region and the state."