Nevada has shut off the water supply to the site of the proposed Yucca Mountain waste repository. However, the site will not run dry. The Energy Department is using a newly built million gallon tank and one small well for the site.
Department officials said that the stored water, plus 400,000 gallons stored in other tanks at the Nevada Test Site, should last several months while scientists continue experiments and design work at the site.
"We have a small window until this water issue begins to impede our ongoing scientific work," said Joe Davis, spokesman for energy secretary Spencer Abraham.
Stopping the water was Nevada's latest tactic to try to prevent storage of the nuclear waste at the site. The state has filed three lawsuits to block the storage.
Nevada State Engineer Hugh Ricci banned the Energy Department from drawing water from all but one well after a temporary permit expired.
The state had also shut off water to the site in February 2000, but the federal government sued and the water kept flowing. Yucca Mountain averages less than seven inches of precipitation a year.
The case is pending. The Justice Department said the Yucca Mountain project would be in "dire need of water" if the permits were denied.
Ricci said the federal government was allowed water from one well because documents filed asserted that the water was being put to "beneficial use". The well provides up to 750,000 gallons a year. That amount is less than 1% of the 140 million gallons a year that the Energy Department has requested.
In addition, state lawmakers approved using up to $3 million in emergency funds to lobby against the waste site. The funds must be matched by public or private sources before they can be used.