Pat Mulroy reflects on her time at the Southern Nevada Water Authority, her legacy and the future of the Colorado River Basin

Once known as the “water witch,” Pat Mulroy became one of the most respected voices on the Colorado River.

With her retirement date coming up this week (on February 6), Pat Mulroy sat down with a local reporter for an exit interview, discussing everything from how she became dubbed the “water czar” to her future plans.

Two major topics stood out in the discussion: SNWA’s controversial water rights filing and pipeline project and the future of the Colorado River Basin.

The water rights filing was one of Mulroy’s first actions as general manager of the Las Vegas Valley Water District (SNWA later became its successor in the filings), and it still unresolved today.  The Authority has applied for unappropriated groundwater rights in eastern Nevada, which would be pumped and delivered to SNWA via pipeline.  The project was shelved for a while, but the Authority kept the applications active in case they were.  Then along came the drought and efforts related to the project were reinitiated.  The project is opposed the counties where the rights are located, along with adjacent counties in Utah, and tribal groups.  In December, a Nevada district court judge issued a ruling that voided the State Engineer’s orders approving the appropriations and ordered additional hydrological studies to be completed.

Most striking was Mulroy’s discussion about the Colorado River Basin.  She discusses the value of the “Law of the River”—not as an untouchable relic, but as parameters in which the basin states can work and get things done.  But most remarkable was her vision of the Colorado River Basin as a holistic system and her advice to stop thinking state to state and look at the managing the resource on the basin level.

“And always remember that if the system crashes, there will not be a winner left standing. Everyone will go down,” says Mulroy.

Read the full interview
Written by Marta Weismann