Las Vegas water officials have unveiled a plan to take water from the Virgin River near Mesquite, Nev., remove the salt and pipe the water to their city.
The plans were outlined Thursday at a special meeting of the Utah Water Resources Board, where it met a critical reaction.Several water officials questioned whether the Virgin has enough surplus water to meet Las Vegas' demands.
Resort communities including St. George, Mesquite and Littlefield, Ariz., are counting on the river's water for development of hotels, condominiums and golf courses.
Las Vegas proposes taking more than a third of the Virgin's flow.
"Las Vegas is large - like a giant. It could use the whole Virgin River and still not have enough," said Dee Hansen, director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources.
Ron Thompson, director of the Washington County Water Conservancy District, said he would not support the proposal until he is certain it would not restrict development in southwestern Utah.
David Donnelly, chief engineer for the Las Vegas Valley Water District, said the plan calls for the diverted water to be stored in a reservoir 15 miles south of Mesquite.
It would be run through a desalination plant to remove the natural salts and then would flow through a pipeline to Las Vegas, about 50 miles away.
Donnelly said the district hopes the federal government would pay part of the cost.