Mayor of Las Vegas may have opened multistate water war

Casinos in Las Vegas


Palm Springs - The flamboyant mayor of Las Vegas may have opened up a multistate water war last week, when he said "no one is going to allow us to go dry" and vowed to go after Southern California's water, it was reported today.

Mayor Oscar Goodman's comments come as officials from Wyoming to Mexico contemplate the prospect of a shriveling Colorado River, where global climate changes might dry up much of the vast water supply for people from Tucson to Tijuana, and Denver to Los Angeles.

Goodman reportedly said last week that farmers in California "will have their fields go fallow before our spigots run dry." Those comments were made last Thursday, when the Las Vegas mayor was asked for comment about a new climate study that predicts such diminished flows in the Colorado River that Lake Mead and Lake Powell will be sucked dry.

"We'll see you at the battlefront," Goodman was quoted as saying by the Desert Sun newspaper of Palm Springs.

Battles over Colorado River supplies are not new. In 1934, Arizona's governor sent the state's National Guard to the Colorado River to prevent Los Angeles from building Parker Dam, and removed the troops only after a federal court ordered an end to hostilities.

In California, Coachella Valley Water District general manager Steve Robbins called the latest Las Vegas threats "ridiculous and inflammatory."

The Imperial Irrigation District views the Nevada threats as "the latest in a series of salvos directed at the farms and fields of the Imperial Valley," said spokesman Kevin Kelley.

University of Utah law professor Robert Adler told the Desert Sun that the Vegas mayor's comments may be a "kind of political statement, rather than a statement based on legal rights."

Farms in the Coachella and Imperial valleys are called the breadbasket of the southwest, and crops and animals grown there feed much of the country, including Las Vegas, farmers say. Surplus water from the desert is already in the process of being acquired by San Diego and other coastal cities.

Farms in California get 11 times more water than Las Vegas is allocated under a multistate agreement brokered by Congress in 1922. A new revision of the Colorado River Compact has been negotiated by the federal government and water users, to accommodate urban growth and decreased water supplies.

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