Waterblogged

by Matt Jenkins

Water in the West is a bit like Tibetan Buddhism: Everybody claims to be interested in it, but few people have the patience to figure out what it’s about. So things go in the blogosphere as well, where few souls are brave enough to try to make sense of the esoteric world of water.

One bold soul currently at work is Rick Spilsbury, a Western Shoshone Indian who runs the "noshootfoot" blog. In an earlier life, Spilsbury worked as an electrician for nuclear weapons detonations at the Nevada Test Site — a vast swath of desolate land in southern Nevada that the Western Shoshone maintain was illegally taken from them by the U.S. government. "I really didn’t feel good that I blew up nuclear weapons on my native homeland," he says, and eventually he got out. He’s now a partner in a small jewelry business, "selling beads and trinkets," as he likes to joke.

Last year, Spilsbury, 46, moved just outside of Ely, Nev., where his family has roots. He started his blog to raise awareness about a proposal to build a coal-fired power plant about five miles from his house. But just as he got it up and running, the West’s biggest water story landed in his lap, when, in the midst of a deepening drought, Las Vegas opened the throttle on its plan to pump water from below the Great Basin. Since then, Spilsbury has been regularly posting biting — and sometimes hilarious — critiques of the pumping project.

Patricia Mulroy, the head of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, says Las Vegas will be forced to stop growing if the groundwater project isn’t approved. "Since no one seems to have noticed, let me remind you that a number of counties in Rural Nevada already have been forced to stop growth," Spilsbury wrote on Sept. 1. "Back in the late 1980s (the Water Authority) applied to the State of Nevada for much of Central Nevada’s water rights. Since then, growth in many places in Rural Nevada has been put on permanent hold."

In another post, he fancifully appoints himself to the Water Authority’s board of directors and demands, "Where’s my report on the decreased cost of desalination?" Spilsbury believes that the most cost-effective way to ultimately meet Las Vegas’ future needs is by pulling the salt out of seawater in California, and trading that water for a bigger share of the Colorado River.

See Spilsbury’s latest posts and archives at noshootfoot.blogspot.com.

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