Award Date

Summer 2010

Degree Type

Professional Paper

Degree Name

Master of Science in Environmental Science

Department

Environmental Science

First Committee Member

David M. Hassenzahl, Chair

Second Committee Member

Helen R. Neill

Third Committee Member

Susanna Hornig Priest

Graduate Faculty Representative

Thomas C. Piechota

Number of Pages

109

Abstract

Climate is harsh in southern Nevada where there is (and has been) a drought alert in effect for over a decade now (Kerr, 2007; Southern Nevada Water Authority, 2009). Las Vegas Valley is a major center of population in the region (1.9 million people), receiving only 4.5 inches of average annual precipitation yet in need of securing more water resources in the near future (SNWA, 2009). Water resource management in southern Nevada is a challenge, especially when 90% of the area’s water needs are met by a single source, the Colorado River, the flow rates of which have been in decline in recent years (Johnson, 2008; Morrison, Postel, & Gleick, 1996). Currently there are two practices in Las Vegas Valley pertaining to water resource use and management which, if modified, will increase the area’s available water stock in the region. First, in spite of the drought and a strong emphasis on public outreach programs to cut down consumptive uses, water-intensive landscaping trends in Las Vegas Valley continue depleting the area’s scarce water resources (SNWA, 2005; SNWA 2006a), and Las Vegas Metropolitan Area continues to have a high per capita water consumption compared to other urban areas in southwestern U.S. And second, Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA), while recognizing the drought in the region, continues to emphasize supply-side water management policies such as the interbasin water transfer plan from rural communities in southeastern/eastern Nevada to Las Vegas Valley (SNWA, 2006b; SNWA, 2009). SNWA’s plan to bring interbasin water (groundwater) from rural Nevada to Las Vegas Valley is the latest addition to southern Nevada’s supply-side water resource management policies, creating tension between urban and rural communities. Concerned citizens, environmental groups, and scientists contend that SNWA’s interbasin water transfer plan, if implemented, will have undesired social, economic, fiscal, ethical, and ecological implications (Deacon et al., 2007; Sierra Club 2008). These implications can be avoided if people in Las Vegas Valley start using the region’s scarce water resources in a more sustainable manner so that there may not even be a need to look for additional water elsewhere (Deacon et al., 2007). This professional paper discusses southern Nevadans’ perception of risk to water environments, and how it affects water resource management and water consumption in the region. Understanding people’s risk perception to water environments will help the policymakers develop effective risk management and risk communication strategies. It will also aid the ongoing policy debate on interbasin water transfer plan from rural Nevada to Las Vegas Metropolitan Area so that 1. The stakeholders’ views on both sides of the issue, and the plan’s social, economic, fiscal, ethical and ecological implications can be better understood, and 2. Informed decisions can be made in a sustainable manner, ensuring the rights of stakeholders and natural systems are not violated, the region’s valuable resources are preserved, and the true costs and benefits of interbasin water transfers are accurately quantified to benefit both the rural and urban residents of Nevada.

Keywords

Groundwater; Interbasin; Nevada – Las Vegas Valley; Risk perception; Sustainablity; Water conservation; Water diversion – Environmental aspects; Water resource management; Water resources development – Environmental aspects; Water-supply

Disciplines

Environmental Policy | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Sustainability | Water Resource Management

Language

English


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