February 24, 1953: Pat Mulroy was born. Patricia Mulroy was the general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority. Her job was to make sure that Las Vegas and the surrounding metropolitan area has enough water, now and in the future. Mulroy is the German-born daughter of an American father and a German mother. She was hired in 1978 when she was working for the University of Las Vegas to work in an administrative job at the Las Vegas Valley Water District. She became general manager of that organization in 1989 and in 1991 she was chosen as the general manager of the newly formed Southern Nevada Water Authority.
Because Las Vegas has one of the lowest priorities of water rights on the Colorado River, her tenure has been marked by some of the most innovative efforts to increase the region’s water supply and revolutionary ideas to conserve water. She has gone way beyond the usual approaches of low flow showerheads and low flush toilets. The Authority’s program to buy back turf grass in people’s yards at a price of up to two dollars a square foot has been called by some as a historic turning point in the war against municipal water over-use in the arid West.
She has been called ruthless, scheming and tough. And those are some of the nice things that people who have gone up against her say about her. She is also scary smart and not afraid to take on the biggest and the baddest opponents to get what she wants. And what she wanted was what is best for the Authority and the people served by it. Some people say that she has mellowed over the years and approached the task of squeezing more water out of a drought-stricken Colorado River with a more strategic approach.
“Her preferred strategy in 2010 was to weight it [Colorado River water rights] down with subsequent agreements so numerous that the contract is in effect suffocated. In her words, ‘Put enough agreements on top of it that it becomes meaningless.’ While her style remains blunt and no-nonsense, her grasp of the realpolitik of the Colorado River water users has grown more sure and subtle. She is a deal maker when necessary, looking to expand the possibilities for trading water rights or to provide incentives for others to compromise. She infuriated residents of northeastern Nevada and western Utah by pushing for a 285-mile pipeline to bring groundwater from the Snake Valley to Las Vegas but eventually struck a deal, although resentment remains and Utah is not yet formally on board.” (Barringer 2010)
Pat Mulroy is one of a kind. She has shaken up the good-old-boys network of water resources experts in the Western U.S. and we are all better off because of it.
Reference: Barringer, Felicity. 2010. “Las Vegas’s Worried Water Czar.” New York Times. September 28, 2010.
Commentary: The entire article is my opinion.
February 24, 1815: Robert Fulton dies. Today in Science History. Robert Fulton–Born 14 Nov 1765; died 24 Feb 1815 at age 49. “American inventor, engineer, and artist who brought steamboating from the experimental stage to commercial success. He did not invent the steamboat, which had been built in the early 1700’s, but rather applied his engineering skills to their design. He changed the proportions, arrangements, and velocities of already proposed ideas. In 1807, work was completed on the Clermont, the first steamboat that was truly successful, and the culmination of many years of work. It’s maiden voyage was on 17 Aug from New York City to Albany, a distance of 150 miles completed in 32 hours. A mechanical genius with many talents, he also designed a system of inland waterways, a submarine (Nautilus, 1801), and a steam warship.”