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Rapid Urban Growth Strains Nevada’s Natural Resources

Rapid growth in Las Vegas has caused tension between urban and rural areas about the strain on Nevada's natural resources. The battle over water and energy use has raised debate about the need for conservation and alternative sources of energy.

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    And finally tonight, day three of our Big Picture trip to Nevada, one of the early political caucus states. Judy Woodruff and Ray Suarez are talking to people in and around Las Vegas all week about the issues that matter to them this election year.


    Here in Nevada, Jim, voters will be looking to the presidential candidates for answers to issues that affect all Americans. But they'll also be listening for issues that are magnified here in the western states, issues like the best use of limited natural resources.

    Ray Suarez has our report.


    The Great Basin of Nevada is an arid region of mountain ranges, meadows, and bubbling streams. What little precipitation falls here quickly evaporates or becomes ground water. None of it escapes to the ocean.

    It's in these peaceful valleys that a fierce battle has begun over water and electricity, growth and sustainability.

  • DEAN BAKER, Rancher:

    How long will you keep these in here before you ship them to market?


    For decades, Cecil Garland and Dean Baker have ranched the land here about five hours north of Las Vegas. In this desert climate, they need to irrigate 70 days a year to grow alfalfa for their cattle. But now the city of Las Vegas wants to take some of that water, and the ranchers say that could mean the end of their way of life.


    It has the potential of putting us out of business. There are studies that have shown that it will draw the water table down for most of the vegetation that put their roots into the water, which is the entire vegetation almost in the valley bottom will die.

  • CECIL GARLAND, Rancher:

    I hate to see this valley die or any other valley die in order to supply water to a metropolis, because we grow food. Most people like to eat, I think. And we grow good food.