Watch Desert Wars September 25, 2006 at 8 pm on KUED Channel 7
Kathy Hill: I'm a teacher here at West Desert School. I teach the elementary school. It's a one-room school with grades kindergarten through sixth grade. I have eighteen in my classroom right now. The reason I got interested in this issue is because this is my home and anything that threatens my home I get kind of passionate about.
Interviewer: What is your fear if this ground water pumping comes to fruition?
Kathy Hill: My fear is that our one resource that really makes this land special for us is the water and I think the water is going to diminish. It may diminish greatly or it may diminish in a comparatively small amount, but whatever it's going to do, it's going to have some significant impacts on a very fragile environment.
Interviewer: Talk a little bit about the trust issue with the Water Authority.
Kathy Hill: There is no trust with the Water Authority. They've gone overboard to get what they want. They've interpreted everything in the way that makes them looks good and they have not paid any attention to our concerns here or what might happen. I think it takes a lot of gall for Las Vegas to figure that since they're running out of water in a desert area they can come to another desert area and deplete that water also. For a long time I feel like water has been considered a renewable resource, particularly ground water because it gets recharged during the winter months and then we use it. But science is starting to show now that a lot of the water that's in the ground came during the ice-age and our area, particularly Lake Bonneville was the result of the ice-age melting and it put down a lot of water and that water is slowly diminishing and the recharge is going to be very insignificant compared with what was put down with Lake Bonneville so it's a very slightly renewable resource. It's not the renewable source we thought about in the past. This community is my home, but more than my home I think it's a very important part of Utah's resource—it's different. Utah has a lot of varied resources and some people love the desert. Some people love the mountains, so I feel like I'm sort of a conservationist to preserve this area for me but also for everybody in Utah and everybody in the nation that values this kind of land.
Interviewer: One of the points that the Water Authority says is there are federal regulations that will protect these areas. What's your response to that?
Kathy Hill: I'm pretty skeptical about federal regulations. I think they mean well but I think they can be bypassed. If you look at some of the mining areas in Kentucky and Virginia where they have cut down mountain tops to help the mining industry when they knew it was very detrimental to the towns and cities that lay below in danger of flooding all the time, I think federal regulations can be changed to fit the need and desires of the powerful people which in this case is Las Vegas. I think it's a very dangerous idea to think that something needs to benefit a large population therefore a small population doesn't count. We can make a lot of things go extinct with that attitude.
Interviewer: What would you like to see happen here for the future?
Kathy Hill: In the short run, I would like to see us win over SNWA and have the pipelines rejected so they can't get the water, and in the long run I really hope that we can make aware the problems of aquifers all over the country. There are a lot of aquifers that are in danger and I think that maybe this is one battle in a big war we're fighting here.
Interviewer: We were talking about Owens Valley. What's the parallel in your opinion?
Kathy Hill: I think there is a very close parallel. For one thing it was the small people against the powerful and the powerful won out. It was a big area that needed water and even though SNWA claims that there are a lot more regulations in place now that will protect us, I don't see SNWA really respecting those conditions and they would like to bypass them any way they can. The science is correct, but the problem is our definitions of what surplus water is. According to the Kirby-Harlow study probably close to 80% of our water goes to evapotranspiration. That means our greasewood and a lot of the plants here take that water from the aquifer and release it into the atmosphere. We think that is a valid use of water if you consider what we don't have. Without that we would lose all of our ground cover, which would create great dust storms… it allows humidity… the amount of rainfall that we have now without that… so we think that's a pretty important part of water usage. SNWA does not even want to consider that as valid use.
Interviewer: So how would the residents here be affected as oppose to the ranchers?
Kathy Hill: Let me tell you about my little well. On our place we have a regular culinary well with a pump in it but we also have an artesian well. An artesian well means that it flows all of the time and so when the power is out, we still have a little flow of water. And when it gets really cold and some of our other water flow freezes up, that one never freezes up because it's a constant flow and if the water levels drop we can put down a deeper well for our culinary well, but the artesian well is stopped forever at that point because you can't just keep digging deeper for an artesian flow. That's something that we've depended on all of our lives and without that there is absolutely no way to recover from that.
Interview: Talk about the politics. What is your opinion of the politicians involved in this story and have they been attentive to your point of view?
Kathy Hill: Most of the politicians in Utah, particularly the Governor, have been very supportive and I know they want to do what's right. They want to consider the science but they are very attuned to what's going to effect our homes. We really appreciate that. Nevada politicians are not nearly as receptive. For them growth and the gambling industry is what makes survival to them and that's all they want to listen to. For me it's not an issue of what Las Vegas stands for. I don't approve of Las Vegas but Las Vegas has the right to be what they are. What I do disapprove of is when they argue that why should a desert who raises alfalfa have any right to water… isn't that a waste of water? compared to why should a great big city raised in the desert to do gambling get the water? I don't understand the complexity of the issue that they would like to spell out for us. It doesn't make sense. I would like to ask Pat Mulroy to put herself into our position and not think of herself as a powerful figure getting a lot of water for Las Vegas, but from somebody who lives here, this is our home and all we have. We're not wealthy and does she really want to take away one of the few things that we have? I think Pat Mulroy is basically a decent person, but I think she's listening to some bad information.