Indiana Can Win the Water Battle

(The following column from Vince Griffin, our VP of environment and energy, appeared in the Inside INdiana Business newsletter.)

Wouldn't it be nice if every time you got in your car, you had a full tank of gas? You wouldn't have to worry about where you were going to fill up next or how much it was going to cost. Unfortunately, this is how most Hoosiers view the state's water supply.

Right now Hoosiers are using water with little to no regard for where it will come from in the future. Most people take for granted everyday things such as how they are able to have water available every time they turn on the faucet. As the most manufacturing-intensive state in the country, Indiana uses vast amounts of water each day to keep its economic engine operating. The aquifers and rivers also support agricultural production in Indiana that contributes almost $38 billion to the state's economy.

This abundant resource may become unreliable if we do not take the proper steps now. Indiana, along with other states east of the Mississippi River, currently doesn't have a plan that secures its long-term water supply.

A clear and concise strategy is required for getting water to Hoosiers who will need it most. In order to do this, three questions must be answered:

1. Where is the water?
2. Who needs the water?
3. How do we get the water to where it is needed at the right time?

Central and southern Indiana have fewer aquifers than the northern half of the state. Without some policy that promotes regional distribution systems, development could be geographically constrained. Regional supplies would alleviate those concerns.

The Ohio River could serve as one resource. Twelve billion gallons of water flow through several Indiana cities and towns that sit on the river. At several points along the Ohio, there are ranney wells built during World War II to collect water from the river. But they have not been used in recent years. By adding pumps to these wells and building a system to distribute the water farther north, future shortages could be addressed.

Other options also would be available. All would be focused on moving the water to where it is needed. Doing so will help stabilize the economic performance of southern Indiana.

Lessons can be learned from Texas. Despite experiencing a tremendous population growth, it has no usable water source. In order to combat this problem, the state is divided into water regions. The supplies being used by each are closely tracked and, depending on consumption, water moved to the regions that need it most. This system allows for continued economic growth as potential shortages are addressed.

While there are future challenges, now is a time of opportunity. Unlike many areas of the country, Indiana has water resources. We can invent our energy and water future by taking charge and planning for the future.

Senate Enrolled Act 132 in 2012, which enables the state to gather information from water utilities, will help policymakers make informed decisions. The data also will help the utilities make smart choices when it comes to distributing their resources. Utilities submitted their surveys earlier this year, and the combined findings will be reported in September.

By being proactive, Indiana can become an example for others to follow. Early commitment is also critical as projects to distribute water supplies, while tremendously beneficial, will be costly.

In a recent speech, Dr. Jack Wittman, a national water expert based in Bloomington, summed up the importance of creating a water plan: "The first state, east of the Mississippi, to come up with a plan is the winner."

Indiana has the opportunity to be that winner. The state will soon have the data; it then needs to use it. The goal is to have a plan in the next two years, then execute it to secure the water future for all Hoosiers.

Americans Say ‘Yes’ to Keystone XL

If public sentiment is a factor in the Obama admistration's final decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, it's time to let the oil flow. The latest survey results are consistent with previous polls, except that the numbers in support continue to grow to even higher levels.

The United Technologies/National Journal survey says:

While the Obama administration mulls whether to approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, Americans are already decided. They support the project by a wide margin, prioritizing potential economic benefits over possible environmental consequences.

The poll finds that more than two-thirds of respondents, 67 percent, support building the pipeline to carry Canadian oil to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast; that includes 56 percent of Democrats. Less than a quarter of Americans, 24 percent, oppose the project, the poll shows.

The State Department is evaluating the proposal, and President Obama said last month that the pipeline should not be permitted if it leads to a significant increase in greenhouse-gas emissions. There is no timeline for a decision, but the State Department says it is evaluating the project in "a rigorous, transparent, and efficient manner."

In the question posed by interviewers, poll respondents were told that Keystone supporters "say it will ease America's dependence on Mideast oil and create jobs," while opponents "fear the environmental impact" of building the pipeline.

Congressional Republicans have been prodding the administration to approve Keystone, with the GOP House holding a symbolic vote in support of the pipeline in May. (That measure won unanimous support from Republicans, save for one member who voted "present," while 19 Democrats also voted in favor.)

These Numbers May Surprise You

Numbers are fascinating. Lisa Sprinkle, part of our Indiana Chamber accounting team, recently said in a BizReport article for our members that she loved numbers so much that she took extra math classes while in school. I wouldn't go that far. I'm more intrigued by the points people try to make through numbers and statistics rather than trying to solve quadratic equations or whatever it was I struggled with in school.

A few recent unrelated numbers I came across; kudos to Governing magazine for the compilation:

  • 90%: portion of tuition covered by the state for University of South Dakota law school students who agree to work in rural South Dakota counties for five years after they graduate. Similar to other programs for doctors and nurses, South Dakota is the first to goes this route with attorneys
  • 7%: amount by which Nevada's water supply is shrinking every year. Occasional summertime droughts are not the issue here; it's having a long-term water plan for our state (any state) to make sure business and individual water needs are met
  • 260,000: the project nursing shortage by the year 2025. Forty percent of the working registered nurses in the country are age 50 and above. More than 54,000 qualifed applicants were turned away from nursing programs in 2010 due to a lack of teachers

Texas/Oklahoma Saga Latest in U.S. Water Battles

We've discussed battles over water rights previously — and certainly will again. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court basically told Texas it has no right to claim billions of gallons of water on the Oklahoma side of the Red River. The Court reinforced an existing compact between those two states, Arkansas and Louisiana. Stateline reports:

The U.S. Supreme Court Thursday unanimously rejected a Texas water district’s attempt to tap river water in Oklahoma, settling a dispute that raised questions about state sovereignty and natural resources at a time when water is increasingly scarce and fought over.

The ruling found that the Texas authority had no right to the water in question, despite a four-state pact designed to ensure equal access to the water that flows in the Red River. The Tarrant Regional Water District had filed a lawsuit in 2007 saying Texas was entitled to some 130 billion gallons of water on Oklahoma’s side of the river basin.

As Stateline previously reported, the questions at the heart of the case have taken on increasing importance as drought and water shortages have strained water supplies and relations among many western states.

The dispute was seen as a potential test case for states’ rights over natural resources, but it’s likely the effect will be narrow, Marguerite Chapman, a law professor at the University of Tulsa, said.

“I think it affirms the integrity of an interstate compact as essentially a contract,” she said. “I don’t think it will disturb other compacts…the far-reaching effect would essentially be affirming the language that’s in the contract.”

The case centered on the Red River Compact that was signed by Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana and approved by Congress in 1980.

The compact grants the states “equal rights to the use and runoff” of undesignated, or unallocated, water that flows in the sub-basin where the Tarrant district is staking its claim — but only if flows to Louisiana and Arkansas reach a certain threshold.

“No state is entitled to more than 25 percent of the water,” the pact says.

The compact has been in place for decades, but Oklahoma lawmakers enacted a moratorium on cross-state transfers in 2002. When the original moratorium expired in 2009, the Oklahoma legislature overhauled the state’s permitting process to effectively exclude out-of-state applicants for water.

From One Chief Executive to Another on Coal and Carbon Dioxide

Frequent readers here or of other Chamber communications have no doubt taken notice of the alarming Washington trend of government by regulation. Numerous reports, the Competitive Enterprise Institute's Ten Thousand Commandments among the latest, have examined this dangerous development. Congress may be deadlocked, but government agencies are the ones putting the stranglehold on businesses in Indiana and throughout the country.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence weighed in this week with a letter to President Obama regarding carbon dioxide standards that are being considered by the Environmental Protection Agency. Pence writes, in part, that the "EPA is proposing a rule that will constrain any potential for an all of the above energy strategy and harm our economy in the process."

The Governor points out that Indiana will be particularly impacted because of its status as one of the leading manufacturing states. While the energy mix has been diversified, coal will remain the major source of electricity. Pence says, "The coal industry and electricity providers have made great strides toward lower emissions, and, as we replace our aging electricity generation plants, I have no doubt that we will find ways to lower emissions even further."

View the full letter – and let's hope Washington pays attention!

Gigerich: Indiana Business Climate is Good News, Bad News Scenario

Larry Gigerich of site selector Ginovus penned an informative column for Inside INdiana Business about Indiana's business climate. While we have come a long way and are currently envied by many states, there is still work to be done. He writes:

A few weeks ago, the Kauffman Foundation and Thumbtack.com released an annual ranking of states for their friendliness to small businesses. Indiana ranked 15th for 2013. The study analyzed several factors including items related to tax climate, work force development and regulatory issues. Eight-thousand small businesses were contacted for feedback regarding the study's criteria. Here is how Indiana ranked in each category.

1. Overall Friendliness: B+
2. Ease of Starting a Business: B+
3. Ease of Hiring: F
4. Regulations: C
5. Health and Safety: D
6. Employment, Labor and Hiring: C-
7. Tax Code: D
8. Licensing: A-
9. Environmental: D
10. Zoning: B-
11. Training and Networking Programs: C-

The grades given to Indiana are not surprising. Work force development and job training have been a focus of Governor Mike Pence and the legislature since the beginning of the year. Indiana's educational achievement, continuing learning for adults in the work force and availability of certification/credential programs have not been where they need to be. While progress has been made, there is still much to be done by government, educational providers, not-for-profits and the private sectors.

Indiana has been recognized as a relatively easy place to start and grow a business. This report points to that in terms of licensing, zoning and other factors affecting the launch of a new business.

The tax code ranking is a bit surprising, but the survey asked small businesses if they were paying too much in taxes for their locations. The elimination of the state inheritance tax, which impacts small and family-owned businesses, could help improve this ranking.

Indiana continues to struggle with rankings where health and environmental issues are considered. In particular, the state's obesity and smoking rates are unacceptably high. These items impact healthcare costs, number of missed days of work and quality of life. In terms of the environment, Indiana's long-term large manufacturing presence has impacted water, air and soil quality. While important steps have been taken in the areas, there is much left to be done.

The top five states for small businesses are (in order): Utah, Alabama, New Hampshire, Idaho and Texas. The bottom five are (in order): Illinois, California, Hawaii, Maine and Rhode Island.

In summary, Indiana's ranking relative to the rest of the country is good. Policymakers in the state should focus on ways to improve our weaknesses in order to move Indiana into the top 10. Due to the fact that Indiana has never been a location for large headquarters for companies, small businesses are and will continue to be the lifeblood of the state's economic growth.

Rockport Plant a Complex Issue in 2013

While there was quite a bit of activity in the environmental area in the 2013 Indiana legislative session, there was little heavy lifting and relatively few changes to environmental law. Yes, it is a work in progress, but Indiana business and industry has done so much to reduce its air, land and water emissions that there are fewer and fewer legislative fixes needed. Still, watch for a number of issues to be studied this summer by the Environmental Quality Service Council (EQSC).

Water and wastewater issues are of concern to the Indiana Chamber. Related to that, there were a number of legislative items addressing the wonderful world of water and sewage. The struggle is between those who are not on a sewer system and those who want them to be. There were also several bills to address the overcharging by water and wastewater utilities of those outside the jurisdiction of the municipality. The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) was added to the current court system as an avenue to take a grievance.

Rockport Plant
The energy arena provided much more drama: At the center, the proposed nearly $3 billion Rockport coal gasification facility on the Ohio River in Spencer County, which generated strong non-partisan emotions. Senator Doug Eckerty (R-Yorktown) and Rep. Suzanne Couch (R-Evansville) were the Senate and House champions who stood strong against an emotional plea from those in the Rockport area. The Indiana Chamber is not opposed to the Rockport project and well-recognizes the potential positive economic development with the plant construction, coal mining jobs and related transportation. However, the funding formula for this project is flawed – any losses at the plant would be paid for by the state’s two million residential and small/medium-sized business taxpayers for some 30 years. Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) called the Rockport bill the most complex issue to face the General Assembly this year and, in fact, held the final third reading vote until after the state budget was approved in the House; it was the very last bill for consideration at nearly 1:30 a.m. on Saturday,
April 27. The Indiana Chamber joined forces with the Indiana Manufacturers Association and Indiana Farm Bureau in support of the Rockport bill that, in the end, passed the House by a convincing 70-28 vote and the Senate by a 43-7 margin.

It contains much-needed additional protections to ensure that small/medium-sized businesses and residential ratepayers will not pay excessive additional rates for the natural gas produced by this plant (if it is built).

The major bill for the electric power industry was SB 560. The Indiana Chamber was neutral as the language carried a “tracker” provision which allows an expense to be tracked most directly into a ratepayer’s bill without a rate case. The Indiana Chamber has members on both sides of this issue. Senate Bill 560 allows the expenses related to “transmission and distribution system improvement charges” (TDSIC) to be “tracked” into bills but requires the utility to submit a seven-year plan and present a full rate case to the IURC within that seven years (if it uses the tracking mechanism).

Interim Activity
The legislative summer committees will likely see many environmental and energy issues as some of the legislative attempts were punted to the summer study docket and other items discussed will probably show up on the agenda. Senator Ed Charbonneau (R-Valparaiso) will likely chair the EQSC this summer and has clearly stated his interest in addressing a variety of topics. Some of the items that are already identified that may be studied in the EQSC or other legislative summer study committees include: agricultural fugitive dust, consolidation of all water management functions under one agency, single point of contact for Indiana Department of Environmental Management 401 certification and Department of Natural Resources flood control, small modular nuclear reactors, non-jurisdictional water and wastewater rates and charges, and Indiana’s water plan status.

People for Urban Progress Helping Indy Reuse — and Rethink

Indianapolis has seen many changes in the past decade. But as old, beloved structures are torn down to make way for new ones, People for Urban Progress (PUP) believes that material need not be wasted. PUP drew attention from citizens and media alike for reusing the RCA Dome rooftop and fabric from Super Bowl promotions, and is now garnering recognition for repurposing seats from the old Bush Stadium. I sat down with PUP Development Innovator Amy Crook to discuss the non-profit organization — which considers itself a "do-tank" – and how it's working to change the capital city.

Chamber: Tell me about PUP. When and why did it start?

Amy: It was founded by Michael Bricker, our chief innovator, and his business partner in 2008. At the time, there was talk of imploding the RCA Dome and they had a natural curiosity about what would happen to that "white stuff" on the roof. They wondered, "Can it be used for something else?" They learned more about what could be done with it. So they salvaged it, and the plan at the time was to make 1,000 bags out of it and other products – wallets, clutches, messenger bags. They raised $70,000 in selling these goods. Half of that went to designers who made the products, and we partnered with RecycleForce … and then the rest of the money went toward projects. Through that project, we put up two shade structures in the community in partnership with Indianapolis Fabrications and Keep Indianapolis Beautiful.

Do any other major cities have similar organizations?

Not that are a not-for-profit model that we’re aware of. … We’re going through a strategic planning process right now, so we are looking at places like Goodwill and TOMS Shoes – and locally, you could say that we have a similar model as Freewheelin', which allows kids to work on repairing bikes, and when they work so many hours, they actually get a bike. The bikes they work on are purchased by the community to raise money for the organization.

How many people work here?

Jessica Bricker, our product designer, is closest to full-time, and she is Michael’s twin sister. Michael works 8-10 months for PUP, but he’s also a production designer for film projects and may be called away for a month or two. I work for PUP three days a week and also do freelance marketing on the side. All of our designers are contracted. There are five of them and they all have full-time jobs.

How are you funded? Do you work with government or via grants?

We’ve been predominantly funded by the sale of products. But this strategic planning is (supported by) the first official grant that we’ve gotten from the Lilly Endowment to help us go through the process. We’ve applied for other grants to help us with material processing. A lot of people are coming to us for these large-scale projects like we’ve already taken on, such as salvaging 13 acres of RCA Dome material, five miles of Super Bowl fabric and 9,000 Bush Stadium seats. There’s this space in the middle that you can’t take to the recycling center, but you can’t put in the landfill either, so we just want to be able to restructure to be able to say “yes” to accepting more materials and trust that we can get them back in the community in a unique way.

Is the city paying you to place some of these Bush Stadium seats at bus stops?

It’s a partnership with IndyGo. IndyGo has a budget per seat amenity, and we’re raising sponsorship dollars for the other half. During the Seat Salvage Phase of the project, we had raised $10,000 from (four) funders to help us get more seats out with the tight deadline: Lumina Foundation, Central Indiana Community Foundation, Eskenazi Health and a private funder.

What’s the greatest challenge facing Indy right now that you’re working to solve, big picture-wise?

Our mission is promoting public transit, environment and design, and based on our research and conversations in the community and with community leaders, urban design and aesthetics have come out of that – an educational effort about what is good design. Michael is also co-chair of the Indy Rezone steering committee.

Transit is also important, of course. Since 2008, we’ve been working on getting a car sharing program started. And then there’s an environmental component – just being good stewards to the earth. The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra is going to be replacing their seats in June, and this has been the first project where people really think of us and contact us in advance to create a plan. Whereas with the dome and other projects, we found out late and then had to figure it out. But now people are talking with us to come up with plans, so they don’t have to scrap this stuff or throw it in a landfill.

Tell us about this Make 5X5 contest you just held.

The 5X5 Indianapolis arts and innovation came out of the Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF). The first one was hosted by Big Car, and we hosted the second one. The next one will be IndyHub. (CICF) came to us and gave us a budget to throw an event based on a theme, and we asked for five organizations to present a five-minute pitch on five slides, and the winner would get $10,000. So our theme was “Making.”

(The winner was the Cool Bus, which will serve as a literary center for children.)

What are some challenges in keeping an organization like this going, in accomplishing your goals?

We’re moving forward and there are some capacity issues, and if we had more people involved or more financial resources, we’d be able to get this stuff out in the community more quickly. But there is progress being made and we’ll be able to have a bigger impact.

Our strategic plan is called “Doing Things.” We took a risk and started this thing and we’re still here and making it happen; let’s take the next steps and create something other people can replicate. We’re keeping an eye on Minneapolis and Atlanta, where they have Teflon-coated fiberglass as their stadium rooftops. We don’t necessarily want to acquire that material, but we know what you can do with it so we want to have a seat at the table and help them find ways to use it in the community and process that material.

You support the mass transit initiative in Indianapolis. Why is that important?

All the articles I’ve been reading now about millenials and Gen Y, we aren’t all going to be homeowners and two-car families. Our salaries aren’t as grand, and our stability in our positions is different. But you’d be surprised, this generation is one of the smartest generations and they are spending within their means. They’re not buying fancy cars; they’d rather cut back and invest in their art, or having children – and invest in that versus things. A strong transit system would help foster that way of living. If you’re having children and you need two cars, and you don’t have a supplemental transit option, you’ll lose people and they’ll go somewhere where they don’t need a car. Our generation travels and experiences other cities, so when you see another city where travel is more efficient, you think about that.

For myself, in my first couple of jobs I was driving 45 minutes to work and back. Now I have a 1.5-mile walk to work. Once you try that, you don’t go back.

You think this type of organization would succeed in any other cities in Indiana?

We were just talking about Bloomington today and its new transit center, wondering how we could get some PUP seats there. While our mission statement is directly for Indianapolis, we’d like to see mini-PUPs, or people can come to us for a resource and we may have experience to help you do something in your community. Maybe it doesn’t have to be a full-time thing. We started with everyone doing this on the side. If there are seats being removed from a stadium or banners that need to be recycled, you can do that and we could consult about how to re-use those materials.

At Home at the Ballpark

Among the reasons that Indianapolis was honored as the Indiana Chamber's 2012 Community of the Year was innovative economic development projects. One of those initiatives, turning the former Bush Stadium into a 138-unit apartment complex, is believed to be the first of its kind and earned some national attention in this Governing magazine story.

Bush Stadium — like many professional sports venues across the country — posed a problem for the community: What do you do with a stadium when a team leaves? (That topic was the subject of a 2011 Governing feature). Baseball stadiums are purpose-built, so they don't offer easy solutions for re-use. Yet they have sentimental and historic value that make demolition a sensitive topic.

Bush Stadium found its savior in John Watson, the principal of Core Redevelopment — which specializes in reusing historic buildings.

Indiana Landmarks, a nonprofit that works to preserve and rehabilitate historic properties, had previously included the stadium on its list of endangered buildings. Marsh Davis, president of the nonprofit, joined Watson in pitching the city on the project, which ultimately contributed funding to the undertaking.

Cox calls the project a “three-dimensional puzzle.” About 85 percent of the building’s volume was torn out, so essentially a new structure was created in the shape of a stadium while maintaining the original wall. “Our company motto is, don’t fight the building,” Cox says.

The developers did retain some especially intriguing parts of the facility. The former owner’s office – complete with a fireplace and restored hardwood floors – is being incorporated into a one of the apartments.  The baseball diamond – once made of dirt – will be made of colored concrete and surrounded by grass. “If you’re in a unit looking down,” Cox says, “it still looks like a baseball field.” The effect makes the the apartments feel like luxury boxes.

Despite the high-profile status of the project, rents aren’t particular expensive: a large 1,600 square-foot studio goes for around $1,300 per month, and a smaller 580 square-foot, one-bedroom costs about $599 (the company’s already leased 35 units).

Davis says there was a risk that the stadium would be demolished, given that the area was poised for development and years had gone by without a viable method of re-use being identified.

“There are purists who would like to see it remain as a ballpark,” Davis says. “The city studied it every which way. There was no economically feasible way. There were no takers. So the alternative is: Do you scrap it, do you save a token wall, or do you do something creative?”

The project cost around $13 million, with the city picking up $3.5 million of the tab. Those funds were generated by the city's downtown tax incremental financing district, though the stadium falls outside its boundaries. Another $1.8 million for the project came from the state.

Deron Kintner, the city’s deputy mayor for economic development, says the Stadium Lofts complex is part of a larger effort the city has taken to redevelop the area as a hub for the life sciences industry, given its proximity to a university, a medical school, and hospitals. The city kicked in its funding since leaders thought it was important to preserve the historic building and believes Stadium Lofts would help bring momentum to the development of the community.

Nevada’s Luck Not Good Thus Far on Water Deal

Like many states, Indiana wrestles with water supply issues and a viable statewide plan is desperately needed. However, our situation is not nearly as dire as it is for Nevada. Stateline documents how a water pact between Nevada and Utah, which was mandated in 2004 and tentatively agreed to in 2009, has now washed down the drain as Utah's governor poured cold water on the deal (so many water puns).

Now Nevada — and the nation — must combat the challenges of having a major city and global tourist destination in the middle of the desert. As a poker enthusiast, Las Vegas has a special place in my heart and I truly hope an agreement can be reached to keep Southern Nevada from having to swim upstream on this issue (sorry). Stateline writes:

The states produced a plan by 2009, splitting the rights down the middle. Utah had already appropriated about 18 billion gallons, more than four times what Nevada had. Under the agreement, Nevada would have received another 12 billion gallons per year, with Utah getting 2 billion more.

Nevada quickly signed. But Herbert, a Republican, long put off his decision amid legal challenges and further study.

The pact would allow Nevada to send Snake Valley water to Las Vegas through a proposed pipeline that could also include straws to nearby communities.

Some 90 percent of Southern Nevada’s water comes from Lake Mead, the Hoover Dam reservoir fed by the Colorado River. Studies have shown, however, the supply is shrinking by as much as 7 percent each year, exacerbated by recent severe drought.

The Southern Nevada Water Authority has called the pipeline a safety net, only to be built if Lake Mead becomes dangerously low, which some water experts say could happen within a decade. But questions have arisen about whether the authority could finance the multi-billion project.

In Utah and parts of Nevada, the pipeline prospect has proved unpopular, spurring loud protests from a variety of groups, including environmentalists, Native American tribes, farmers and ranchers who worry the project would damage the communities and threaten their way of life.

“The project would create a massive dustbowl,” said Zach Frankel, executive director of the Utah Rivers Council, which has opposed the pipeline and the pact.

The ultimate fear is that Snake Valley would face the same fate as California’s Owens Lake, which catastrophically dried up nearly a century ago when officials diverted its water source — the Owens River— to feed booming Los Angeles. Today, though some flow has returned, the vast salty area northeast of Los Angeles remains the largest single source of dust pollution in the U.S.

Last October, a trio of water attorneys advised Herbert that the agreement was the preferred option to a lengthy legal battle.

“The agreements, while not perfect, provide a framework to protect the interests of water users and citizens as a whole in each state and provide a process to address adverse impacts early on if detected to avoid significant harm to anyone,” the report said.

But on Wednesday, after visiting locals who would be impacted by a water transfer, Herbert announced he would not sign.

“There is no more complex and emotional issue with which I have grappled as governor of this great state,” he said. “I won't impose a solution on those most impacted that they themselves cannot support.”

Now, it’s Nevada’s move, but it’s unclear what it will do.

The Southern Nevada Water Authority said it was disappointed in Herbert’s decision. “In the coming days and weeks, we will evaluate our options to address this unprecedented action,” it said in a statement.

Nevada governor Brian Sandoval’s office referred questions to the state’s Division of Environmental Protection, which did not answer messages.

McCool, the water expert, said Las Vegas’ water crisis, along with the political and financial challenges of proposed projects to meet its needs, could spur Utah to sell some of its unallocated rights along the Colorado to Nevada. Or, further in the future, perhaps all seven states will rework the 91-year-old Colorado River Compact to give Nevada a bigger share.

Under the compact, Nevada only receives 4 percent of the allocations. That’s because no one in 1922 anticipated some 2 million people would eventually make their lives in the desert.

“The straw that breaks the camel’s back is going to be Las Vegas,” said McCool, who dubs this period in western water history “the big shakeout.”

“This is where we’ll figure out who has the political will and connections to get this thing done.”