On a mountain in Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park, a state wildlife biologist is refilling water tanks.
In the background, a helicopter precisely lowers a Bambi bucket holding about 200 gallons of water into a receptacle and quickly leaves to haul more water. As the helicopter circles back down to the base of the mountain, a six-man crew is refilling five water receptacles for the next water draw.
“That’s about a six-minute turnaround,” said Wildlife Game Biologist Pat Cummings. It was the helicopter’s 20th trip of the day.
The Nevada Department of Wildlife is replenishing desert bighorn sheep’s only source of water for miles. Without the emergency intervention, animal populations will decline and ecosystem viability is threatened.
We’ve had drought conditions before. We have had to haul water on an emergency basis, but not anywhere near approaching this magnitude, this scale of severity,” Cummings told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “I have been in Southern Nevada since the mid-’70s. I remember 2001 and 2002 as being the worst, back-to-back dry years, even worse than 1996. But what we see now is even worse, even worse.”
Nevada is experiencing intense drought for the second year in a row. Last year, Las Vegas went 240 days without measurable rainfall. This year, 40% of the state is in exceptional drought — the highest level according to the National Weather Service.
Cummings said water developments, also known as guzzlers, have become perilously low in water storage across Southern Nevada.
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