In observation of World Water Day, The Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN) hosted a film screening and panel discussion on Friday at the Joe Crowley Student Union on the campus of the University of Nevada, Reno. Declared by the United Nations and first observed in 1993, World Water Day events typically raise awareness surrounding management of freshwater resources worldwide.
The international theme for World Water Day in 2019 is “Leaving no one behind.” Three of the four panelists represented Great Basin tribes, and discussion focused on the impacts of perpetual pollution and water grabs on those tribes. PLAN organized the event “to educate the public on perpetual or endless water pollution by the mining industry and raise awareness around the Las Vegas water grab from the perspective of the Indigenous water protector runners.“
Great Basin Water Protectors, the first film screened, documented the first Water Protectors Sacred Run held in 2018. Participants ran from Great Basin National Park to Las Vegas to raise awareness of the Alliance of rural tribal communities of the proposed pipeline to supply water to Las Vegas. Interviewing current rural residents already affected Friday at wells and drawing comparisons to Los Angeles and its piping events typically from the Owens Valley to Southern California, the film resources worldwide draining rural valleys to feed unsustainable cities.
“We need to work on water, and we need to confront climate change face to face, and we need to do it together,” implored Beverly Harry, native community organizer for PLAN and producer of Protectors.
The second film, Tainted Thirst, provided an overview of the impacts of mining on water resources and shared the stories of people whose water was rendered undrinkable by mining operations. Panelist Glen Miller, professor of Natural Resources and Environmental Science at UNR and a board member of the Great Basin Resource Watch, noted that the current permitting process allows mining companies to assume perpetual treatment of all water used by or otherwise impacted by the operation.
In other words, mines are allowed to pollute an environment such that the water there will always be tainted, he said.
“How long do you care about,” asked Professor Miller. “I’m a 500-year guy. We are doing things now that will have impacts well beyond 500 years. Essentially, forever. How do we account for that?”
In his opening remarks, Ian Bigley, Mining Justice Organizer for PLAN, noted that Colorado had recently passed legislation ending the tradition of accepting perpetual pollution and instead requiring companies restore water quality after mining operations cease. This brought cheers from the audience.
Autumn Harry, a member of the Pyramid Lake tribe and graduate student at UNR, noted that the US Forest Service recently denied permits for fracking in the Ruby Mountains of eastern Nevada, and Nevada Senator Cortez Masto is pushing for an even wider ban on the practice.
Citing these two examples of legislative progress, Bigley, Harry, and the others prompted audience members to write their representatives urging action on water issues. Also provided was a link an online form letter provided by PLAN (www.bit.ly/NVWaterDay).
Andrea is a freelance photographer and mountain enthusiast. She discovered the Great Basin on her first trip to California 15 years ago and finally made the move to Reno in 2019. Her favorite stories investigate efforts to strike a balance between conservation and recreation. Andrea has made images for a variety of publications, websites, and conservation organizations. In her free time—and sometimes for work!—she enjoys rock climbing, backpacking, snowshoeing, and lazy days in camp with her husband.