Water: exist or not?

Rachel Dahl, CEO of the taxpayer funded Mesquite, NV Regional Business Inc. (MRBI) is touting water access as an incentive to attract businesses to Mesquite.

Lucas M. Thomas, in a February 3, article in the Desert Valley Times (DVT), quoted Dahl as saying that water within the Virgin Valley “could provide an incentive for companies looking to move that might not have access to water in other areas of Southern Nevada.  Her comments came during a meeting with the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance where Thomas reports Dahl also said that  “she spoke to two separate people who expressed interest in Mesquite for that very reason.

No one knows how much water is available in the Basin that serves the Virgin River Valley. Nor does anyone know how decades-long droughts impacted the entire Southern Colorado River Basin that feeds that water sources. Nor do water board officials understand how water demands from Las Vegas and St. George drain the local aquifer as do local earthquakes and potential fracking projects advanced during the Trump administration.

Dahl is simply repeating misleading statements by Water District representatives and others.

In April 2015, Kevin Brown, manager of the Virgin Valley Water District (VVWD) said that  “Mesquite and Bunkerville have sufficient water for decades.” However, on June 19, 2015, Jason King, State Water Engineer, told the DVT, “I’m not sure how much water is in the aquifer now; I couldn’t even estimate how much is there.”

On September 8, 2015, Barbara Ellestad, in her role as editor of the Mesquite Local Newsellestad-not-happy (MLN)  told Lieutenant Governor Mark Hutchison,“we don’t have an issue with water.”

Let’s go back a few years. In December 2011, that Board, charged then VVWD Manager, Ken Rock with performing a “Hydrologic Evaluation of the Lower Virgin River Basin (221, and 222), Clark and Lincoln Counties, Nevada, and Parts of Washington County Utah and Mohave County, Arizona.”  Rock acquired a proposal by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) to study the issue. Rock was eventually fired, and the USGS project rejected on a 3-2 vote of the board. Former board members Sandra Ramaker and Karl Gustaveson dissenting.

During a February 2014 meeting between the Water Board and the City Council, Ellestad argued that because the study involved Utah and  Arizona, the VVWD could do nothing about the results. Therefore, she would not support spending $500,000 for a study. That is nonsense. Scientific studies drive models that are helpful for all decision makers and do not discriminate between states.  Second, the price tag ignores potential federal grants and other economic sources.

rapson-on-studiesAt the same meeting, Councilman George Rapson made the dubious comment that if the State Engineer granted permits sufficient water was available. Permits are not equal to water. Basins can be, and often are over permitted. Remember what King has said, “I’m not sure how much water is in the aquifer now; I couldn’t even estimate how much is there.”

In simple terms, those alleging ample water available are assuming they know more than the state water engineer while dismissing environmental facts and possibilities. Further, they apparently assume that the area will grow slowly, and tens of millions of dollars will be available to meet future demand.

A Virgin Valley Water Board briefing, not widely distributed reports that “based on groundwater rights, only 3,076 Equivalent Development Unites (EDU’s) remain for future “will serve.”  One EDU is equal to one family home. Will serve is a dubious commitment to provide water when required.

Once contractors reach 3,076 homes or some combination of business and homes, a briefer said: “surface water will have to be developed for potable water use, treatment plans build  (at the cost of about $60 million dollars), and irrigation leases for golf courses pulled back.”

Keep in mind that it is not the VVWB that makes decisions about water allocation.  It is julian-videoactually, the City Council. On Tuesday, October 20, 2015, Virgin Valley Water Board  (VVWB), President Nephi Julien told participants that the Mesquite City Council, not the Water Board, controls water allocations.

According to Julien, “it is not our right to determine that someone gets water before somebody else.  They (The Council) are the ones who control that. ” The only limits are the number of permits available.

ballweg-at-press-conferenceWhen Candidate, now Councilman  David Ballweg ran for office, he said: “The first thing I want the public to understand is that the city council has no impact or say in district water policy.”

There is a lot more to the water story than space allows. It is past time for the people to come together and develop an action plan to overcome local official misrepresentations about water availability.