Water wrongs

By now you’ve heard of SB 487. It’s the bill which would combine the four main water agencies in Northern Nevada—the Truckee Meadows Water Authority, the Washoe County Department of Water Resources, the Sun Valley General Improvement District and the South Truckee Meadows General Improvement District. It’s often characterized by opponents as similar to the creation of Southern Nevada Water Authority, the birth of which helped fuel the irresponsible growth of Las Vegas and its nearby areas.

Such an agency would be disastrous to our rapidly worsening quality of life in Northern Nevada.

See, it’s widely recognized that we have already allowed for more homes to be built than Northern Nevada has water to offer. Never mind that building beyond demand has created a housing environment with plummeting sales values. With all those losses happening and a third of the currently for-sale homes unoccupied, Washoe County home foreclosures are at double the national rate.

But developers don’t care about the individual who has lost a home. In fact, the conventional wisdom developers pass around is that it’s not families who are losing their homes, but speculators. What do those speculators look like? They look like your neighbors, people who bought “up” with the intention of selling their first home when they moved into the new and improved one. It could easily have been you.

We’ve got to put a break on the growth, folks. People who don’t care that they have to drive an extra half-hour to get outside the suburbs to the more natural areas of Northern Nevada—those areas many of us moved here to enjoy—may care that without the checks and balances created by multiple water purveyors each with its own set of checks and balances, paying more for water is inevitable. And yet, the casinos continue to install urinals that flush whether anyone has used them or not.

And it’s not like the water system we have now is all that great. Don’t forget that TMWA has raised rates without need and beyond what its own consultants said was necessary, paid its employees substantially more than comparable agencies paid its employees, and that it charged ratepayers almost a million dollars a year for its Truckee River Fund, which, in effect, forced ratepayers to contribute to TMWA’s charity.

So with all these factors already working, can there be any doubt that Northern Nevada Water Authority would be a nightmare for people in Washoe County who want to water their tomatoes or flush their toilets after they pee?

Bottom line: There are three main reasons to oppose SB 487. First, it would allow the use of rate-payer funds to look for water to help exacerbate population growth that rate-payers probably don’t want. Second, it allows more government to acquire water through condemnation and to import water to help increase growth (again, that rate-payers probably don’t want). Third, politicians, not water-management professionals, will be making the decisions that should be based in science and sensibility rather than political expediency and paybacks to developers who fund campaigns.

Please call your representative at the Nevada Legislature and tell them you do not support the formation of a super water agency in Northern Nevada.