December 10, 2004
The Arizona Water Banking Authority approved what one board member called a "historic’’ agreement to bank and then sell more than 14 billion gallons of excess water to Nevada every year for the next three decades.
Thursday’s unanimous vote came after the pact was amended to ensure that Arizona cities, businesses and farmers would not have to cut their own usage in years of shortage just so the Las Vegas area would get its full allocation. Herb Guenther, director of the state Department of Water Resources, said the deal now is in a form to benefit both states.
From Arizona’s perspective, some of that benefit is in the form of cash: $100 million up front and $23 million per year for a decade beginning in 2009, the latter to pay for storage costs.
But some is political: Nevada water authorities agreed, in writing, to support changes in laws governing the Colorado River that now require Arizona to be the first to lose its share in years of shortage.
Nevada, in turn, gets water it will need well into this century to fuel the
explosive growth of Las Vegas while it finds other sources. The S outhern Nevada Water Authority is slated to ink its approval next week.
"It’s a chance for us and Nevada to work together,’’ Arizona board member John Mawhinney said. "That’s an excellent thing and it benefits both of us.’’
But Mawhinney said he remains concerned that the up-front payment will be grabbed by Arizona legislators taking from various funds when revenue runs short.