How it’s done in the desert

A REMORSELESS game of political chess being played out by the two driest states in the country moved inexorably toward checkmate last week in Washington DC.

Mount Wheeler, the peak whose snowmelt feeds this stream in the Great Basin Desert, stands in Nevada. But Wheeler’s water serves Snake Valley, which straddles the Nevada-Utah border.

Congressional maneuvering over which state has the rights to how much of Mt Wheeler’s water began in 2004, when in a land bill pushed by the Nevada delegation, Congress granted right of way for a Las Vegas pipeline that would eventually run hundreds of miles into the Great Basin to tap Snake Valley.

But hours before the vote, Utah Senator Bob Bennett slipped a clause into the bill dictating that no water could be taken from border valleys without Utah’s consent.

As negotiations took

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