The in-depth profile of Pat Mulroy made the mistake many others have made in evaluating her, abandoning balance and working to explain away the hypocrisies of her tenure as Las Vegas’ water boss (“Unite and Conquer,” HCN, 4/13/15).
Her hard-nosed tactics may be viewed by admirers as feints meant to foster collaboration among other water managers on the Colorado River, but not for Nevadans in Pat’s water-grab sacrifice zone. Pat and the culture she fostered at Southern Nevada Water Authority have fought tooth-and-nail against any efforts to reduce the scope of their $15.7 billion groundwater pipeline project, to set triggers at which the pumps would be shut off (or put into reverse, as suggested in the article), to push more aggressive or innovative indoor conservation techniques, or to ratchet up punitive rates for water wasters. They’ve fought both a full vetting of other options and a thorough accounting of the millions in tax- and ratepayer dollars spent on public affairs, property purchases, lawyers and “experts” whose findings have been challenged by the research of independent analysts and other agencies. Pat may be a collaborator with the other six Colorado River states, but rural Nevadans know otherwise.
If not for the fact that SNWA has been on a losing streak in court, pipe might already be laid. That sounds like the strong-arm water grab tactics of the past, not some idyllic new way of pumping. Mulroy is a polarizing figure who has earned the respect of allies and opponents. Now that she’s retired, attempts seem to be underway to burnish her legacy by softening the edges and inconsistencies coming from her record on this issue. But the hard facts show that while she’s given Nevada an outsized role in affairs on the Colorado River and done admirable things, she also stubbornly prioritized and pursued this disastrous eastern Nevada groundwater project against the better judgment of history, science and law. We would expect that High Country News would provide objective “warts and all” reporting of Mulroy’s accomplishments and failures. She is not perfect, and High Country News shouldn’t cover up those blemishes.
There is no benign name for Pat’s pipeline. “The Las Vegas water grab” accurately conveys Mulroy’s approach.