Water Authority approved an agreement in December 2004
with Arizona that allows Nevada to store water in
Arizona's groundwater aquifer.
Under the agreement, Nevada will
pay Arizona to store unused Colorado River water for
An amendment to a 2001 groundwater
banking agreement, this pact solidifies the quantity of
water to be stored, guaranteeing Nevada access to the
entire 1.25 million acre-feet (more than 400 billion
gallons of water). Under the terms of the agreement, SNWA
could begin withdrawing 20,000 acre-feet of credits per
year in 2007, ramping up to as much as 40,000 acre-feet
annually by 2011.
Because the withdrawals will be taken
from Lake Mead, Nevada also will receive return-flow
credits for the portion used indoors, further
extending the value of this pact.
"This represents a landmark in
cooperation between the states that rely upon the Colorado
River," said SNWA General Manager Pat
Mulroy. "For nearly a century, the basin states
have focused primarily on protecting their share of the
river. These kind of partnerships will allow the entire
Colorado River basin to weather the drought."
Under the terms of the agreement, SNWA
will pay Arizona $100 million in 2005, then make 10 annual
installments of $23 million beginning in 2009.
"As we move forward with our
planning, this agreement guarantees us an additional
water supply potentially for the next five decades,"
Mulroy said. "It does not eliminate the need for us
to continue our conservation efforts or develop water
supplies that are independent of the Colorado River.
However, this agreement does provide the bridge we need to
help insulate the residents of Southern Nevada from
Earlier this year, the SNWA announced
plans to exercise its water rights along the Virgin and
Muddy rivers and act upon groundwater applications it
holds in basins within Clark, Lincoln and White Pine
counties. Because these projects will require both
extensive environmental analyses and significant
construction, the majority of these in-state
supplies will not be available to Southern Nevada for
nearly another decade.
As part of the water banking agreement, Arizona stores
available Colorado River water in an underground aquifer.
Nevada receives "credits" for the water stored
in this groundwater "bank."
When Nevada needs to recover some of
this banked water, it uses its storage credits and
withdraws a portion of Arizona's Colorado River water
directly from Lake Mead. Arizona then withdraws the same
amount of water from its groundwater aquifer.