Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, July 13, 2020


Patrick Donnelly, (702) 483-0449,

Lawsuit Filed to Ensure Water for Rare Nevada Fish

LAS VEGAS— The Center for Biological Diversity sued the Nevada state engineer today for allowing groundwater pumping that reduces spring flows and endangers the rare Moapa dace.

The state recently limited pumping from a remote desert groundwater basin to protect water supplies for the dace, which has been protected under the precursor to the Endangered Species Act since 1967. But the order allowed continued pumping of up to 8,000 acre feet per year (2.6 billion gallons), an amount that may jeopardize the spring flows the fish needs to survive.

Today’s petition for judicial review asserts that Nevada’s state engineer overestimated how much groundwater pumping could be allowed to sustain the springs and the fish.

“Limiting groundwater pumping was a good first step, but these rare little fish won’t survive unless the limits are lowered,” said Patrick Donnelly, Nevada state director at the Center, which has been fighting for the fish’s water supply for almost 15 years. “We’re glad the state agrees that it’s required to protect the sensitive aquifers where the Moapa dace live. This lawsuit is intended to hold the state to its word and take the steps needed for this fish to survive.”

The endangered Moapa dace lives only in certain groundwater-fed springs in the Muddy River area northeast of Las Vegas; groundwater pumping across the Lower White River flow system has reduced the spring flows it needs to survive.

Plans for a proposed suburban development called Coyote Springs threaten to increase pumping and potentially dry up the springs. Coyote Springs was dealt a significant blow in May by the demise of the Southern Nevada Water Authority pipeline. Groundwater pumping from the Lower White River is the development’s last chance at water.

“The Endangered Species Act protects the Moapa dace and the water it relies on for survival,” said Donnelly. “We intend to ensure that water’s there forever. The current trajectory puts this special little fish on the path to extinction.”

Moapa dace
Moapa dace. Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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