The Bad Neighbors

There's an old adage that the abused will often become the abusers. After decades of having its water and power taken by neighboring California, Nevada has finally cracked and decided to extract a little vengence upon it's neighbor to the east, Utah.

Now I can understand how Nevada might be a bit bitter. Almost all of the power from Hoover Dam goes to Los Angeles and most of the water goes to farmers in desert portions of California and Arizona, the result of a deal negotiated over 70 years ago when Las Vegas was little more than a rail stop and getaway for dam workers in Boulder City. Nevada doesn't have a lot of leverage to renegotiate what in today's terms is a bum deal, so the best it can do is try and tap its own resources.

Unfortunantly, it's turned on it's own citizens to do so. Ranchers outside of Clark and Washoe counties, the homes of Las Vegas and Reno, respectively, have been afraid of the big cities trying to nab their water rights without much or any compensation. With the push to pump almost 100,000 acre-feet of water from White Pine county to the north, they can see that the fix is in.

It's not just Nevada ranchers affected, though, or this would just be another "David and Goliath" story that never escaped the local papers. The pumping would be sucking a lot of that water right under the border from neighboring Utah. This plan has infuriated Utahns of all stripes as we deal with our own water woes. Fast-growing St. George is having to resort to building a pipeline clear out to Lake Powell to keep the wheels of growth turning.

This problem wouldn't exist had Californians been willing to take their lumps and develop their own water resources instead of using the power of superior numbers to legislate it away from their neighbors. By not spending the money to invest in desalinazation plants and resevoirs to trap their share of the Sierra Nevada's melting snow, they've trapped themselves in a dependency on water from the Colorado River and Lake Tahoe. Their bad example of using population to bully what they want out of others is the same model used by Las Vegas against the rural ranchers.

Let's hope our bad neighbors to the west (both of them) get a grip on reality and start playing nice.

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7 Responses

  1. The Other Shauna says:

    This has nothing to do with anything in this post. But it made me think of you.

    My only question: Can you get it with a hat?

  2. Shauna says:

    I’m not so worried about Nevada stealing our water. I hear the water in Colorado tastes lovely.

  3. Sherpa says:

    Um, you already drink water from the Colorado River basin…..

  4. Reach Upward says:

    Our founders worried about oppression by the majority. That’s why we don’t have a pure democracy. As noted in your post, it’s not a foolproof system, but the founders knew that before they even got it started. It’s just the best system they could come up with.

    You also point out a principle that applies to almost every facet of life. Doing things the easy way instead of the right way will always cause more problems in the long run.

  5. Krispy says:

    When I first saw the title, I thought you were going to be trashing on my uncle.

    psst…it’s “adage”

  6. Kris says:

    I think the thing that bugs me the most is those of us in Utah, Nevada, and California all use water like we live in Ohio. Do you know Coloradians(?) can’t even collect their own rain water? It’s bought and paid for by other states.
    Maybe a “no lawn” policy is in order. If nature can’t keep it alive, you shouldn’t be able to either.
    Of course, most water use is taken up by industry and agriculture so it wouldn’t make much of a dent anyway.

  7. Jesse says:

    When Las Vegas passed watering restrictions, they specifically exempted resorts from the requirements. The rationale? They consume about 2% of the water and generate about 50% of the revenue.

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