LAS VEGAS (AP) — The Southern Nevada Water Authority has backed out of a pipeline project designed to pump billions of gallons of water from eastern Nevada to Las Vegas.
The authority's board of directors voted unanimously Thursday, ending the state and federal permitting process, including withdrawing water rights applications, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
“Today’s vote is a victory for rural and urban Nevada. Vegas ratepayers will save billions of dollars, and the Great Basin’s aquifers will retain billions of gallons of water,” Great Basin Water Network Executive Director Kyle Roerink said in a statement.
The $15 billion pipeline project was first proposed in 1989 to serve as a backup supply for the growing southern region and provide water to at least 170,000 homes in Las Vegas after making a 300-mile (482-kilometer) journey across the state.
The region currently relies on water from the Colorado River.
Native American communities, ranchers and environmentalists argued the project could disrupt groundwater basins and threaten culturally sensitive areas considered sacred to some tribes, such as the swamp cedars in White Pine County's Spring Valley.
The vote came after a district court judge upheld a ruling in March to block the authority's plans to pump water from the valleys in White Pine and Lincoln counties because of concerns it would deplete the aquifer.
The pipeline would not be needed within the next 30 years, the authority said after the ruling, indicating it would not appeal.
“The agency remains focused on efforts to increase water conservation within Southern Nevada and strengthening partnerships with other Colorado River water users to expand the community’s water resource options,” the water authority said in a statement, adding that successful conservation efforts have led to the decision to abandon the project.