LAS VEGAS -- A controversial plan to build a massive groundwater pumping system from rural Nevada to Las Vegas could carry a huge price tag, according to a new report.
Critics of the so-called water grab have alleged for years that the true cost of the plan was many times what water officials have admitted, and now they have documentation to back up their suspicions.
The Southern Nevada Water Authority originally said the rural groundwater project would cost around $1 billion. That estimate then jumped to $2 billion, and then to more than $3 billion, which is where it's remained for several years, even though critics alleged that the true cost would be much higher.
Now there is evidence behind the suspicions, and it comes from SNWA itself. A new study commissioned by the SNWA and compiled by Hobbs, Ong and Associates, a respected consulting firm, estimates the true cost of the water grab will be enormous -- capital costs alone would be $7.2 billion, twice as much as SNWA's most recent estimates.
Moreover, financing the project would cost another $8 billion, meaning the total cost would be $15.4 billion, assuming there are no cost overruns or other hiccups.
The report has been submitted to the state engineer's office, which next month will begin hearings on whether to approve the removal of billions of gallons of groundwater from already parched rural basins. Environmentalists and the Bureau of Land Management say the plan could decimate a huge swath of rural Nevada.
Will southern Nevadans support a $15 billion spending plan, the largest public works project in Nevada history? it depends on what will happen to their water bills. The same study reaches shocking conclusions about what would happen to the average water bill for homes and businesses.
Monday evening, 8 News NOW will report on what would happen to the average water bill if water officials approve the pipeline plan.