Spring Mountains Pyrg: Freshwater Species of the Week

The Spring Mountains Pyrg (Pyrgulopsis deaconi). Photo: Robert Hershler, Smithsonian


We’ve written before about Water Wars in the West, and now comes the latest salvo. Earlier this week, the Nevada State Engineer announced a decision to grant water rights to the Southern Nevada Water Authority that would allow the agency to pump groundwater from Spring, Cave, Dry, and Delamar valleys and pipe it to thirsty Las Vegas.

The Center for Biological Diversity argues that such a move will dry up the region’s springs and creeks, threatening up to 25 species of springsnails, including the Spring Mountains Pyrg (Pyrgulopsis deaconi).

In 2009, the Center filed a petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list 35 species of springsnails unique to the region’s Great Basin as threatened or endangered.

The organization points to a 2011 Bureau of Land Management draft environmental impact statement on the proposed project that predicted that pumping groundwater would damage some 300 springs and 120 miles of stream.

According to the Water Authority, the $15.5 billion pipeline and pumping project would redirect 57 million gallons of water a year from rural Nevada and Utah to Las Vegas.

Besides the springsnails, other species that could be impacted include Bonneville cutthroat trout, frogs, sage grouse, mule deer and elk.

“The winner in today’s ruling is mindless Las Vegas growth, while biodiversity, rural residents and future generations are the clear losers,” said Rob Mrowka, a Nevada-based ecologist with the Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement.

Instead of the water grab, the Center advocates boosting conservation measures.

Photo: Longitudinal-Gland-Pyrg-Habitat
Snail habitat, where Longitudinal Gland Pyrgs were found. Photo: Rob Mrowka, Center for Biological Diversity


Brian Clark Howard is a writer and editor with NationalGeographic.com. He was formerly an editor at The Daily Green and E/The Environmental Magazine and has contributed to many publications, including TheAtlantic.com, FastCompany.com, MailOnline.com, PopularMechanics.com, Yahoo!, MSN and elsewhere. His latest book, with Kevin Shea, is Build Your Own Small Wind Power System.