Given the remarkable role of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in western U.S. water history, it’s at least of symbolic importance that the church is among those who have filed protests against Las Vegas, Nevada’s proposal to build a pipeline to pump water from the Snake Valley to the growing gambling metropolis.
The Mormons pioneered water development in the arid western U.S., literally beginning irrigation on the first day they arrived in what is now Salt Lake City and playing a central role in the century of water development that followed.
Brandon Loomis in the Salt Lake Tribune explains the church’s concern about the Snake Valley Project:
The church protests cover wells proposed for Spring Valley, where it operates the Cleveland and Rogers ranches and three associated grazing permits.
“In January 2010, the church protested four proposed well locations out of concern that those specific wells could negatively impact water rights used in ranch operations,” church spokesman Scott Trotter said in a written statement.
The Mormon water story is especially interesting in the Little Colorado Valley, an outpost on the edge of 19th century Mormondom that was a particularly harsh and unforgiving environment (among many harsh and unforgiving environments that the Mormons successfully inhabited – that’s of what’s long fascinated me about the Mormon water story).
For more on how they did it, I recommend William Abruzzi’s work, nicely summarized here.