Mesquite, NV. The Virgin Valley Water Board (VVWB) plans to spend $41,573,374 in capital expenses to improve the local water infrastructure to meet their projections of growth over the next 10-years. That is a little over 30% of the $125,393,000 the VVWB plans to spend in capital costs over the next 40-years. Adding operating and personnel expenses could potentially double those numbers.
To recover their capital investment, they plan to increase System Development Costs (SDC) on new construction water hook-ups by 40% from the current $2,650 to $6,629.78 per Equivalent Dwelling Unit (EDU) for at least the next 10-years. [[i]]
Their math is full of assumptions. They claim a linear growth in the population of 3.35% over the next ten years from 25,214 to 35,055 for a total increase of 9,041 individuals. They define 63 percent (6,271) of the 9,041 as their total EDU’s. Then they divided the total costs 41,573,374 by 6,271 to arrive at an SDC of $6,629.78.
After doing that, they scream loud and clear that if they only charge developers $2,650 instead of $6,629.78, they will have a $24,957,224 shortfall. Shortfall argument:
- $6,629.78 x 6,271 = $41,575,374
- $2,650 * 6,271 = $16,618,150
- Difference= $24,957,224
These false equivalencies confirm the VVWB’s predetermined bias that:
- Whereas: population growth is linear, and
- Whereas: water supply is available, and
- Whereas: water is positively correlated to population growth, and
- Whereas: delivering water costs money,
- Therefore, new costs must be allocated to new construction contractors.
Flawed reasoning drives all these false equivalences that population and water availability grow linearly over time. [[ii]]
Presently Basin 222, which provides all the water for the local area, is over permitted and closed to new permits.
The VVWB reports an estimated reliable yield on existing wells of 14,296.80 Acre Feet Annually (AFA) which is 2,025.63 (AFA) over their allocated permits and certificates.
More critical then permits and certificates is the Perennial Yield [[iii]], which the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Division of Water Resources, set in 1968 at 3,600 AFA for Basin 222.
On July 25, 2017, Timber Weiss, a water resource specialist for the Division of Water Resources, warned the Water Board that the perennial yield from local Basin 222 is only 3,600 Acre Feet Annually (AFA).
On January 30, 2018, Former Nevada Water Engineer Jason King said that “It is the general policy of the State Engineer is to limit groundwater withdrawals from a basin to the average annual recharge to the groundwater basin or its perennial yield.” [[iv]],[[v]].
According to King, “Most (Basins) were already over appropriated before the Perennial Yield (PY) being established. He noted that “Popular thinking that not all rights would be put to their maximum beneficial use, so it was acceptable to over‐appropriate.” [vi]
The goal is not to allow the consumptive of groundwater rights and domestic wells to exceed the basin’s perennial yield, he said.
Proper water policy in this arid, climate prone environment starts with determining the actual amount of water available to serve a specific population.
Two Nevada Governors supported by bi-partisan legislation knew the importance of water availability in planning and they established policy to get to that answer
On June 9, 2017, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, R, signed into law Senate Bill 47 (NRS 533.024). That legislation required the State Water Engineer to prepare a “water budget” for groundwater and manage that water source “conjunctively” with surface water. According to Jason King, Nevada’s chief water engineer for Nevada’s Division of Water Resources, conjunctively also includes effluent.
In 2019, Governor Steve Sisolak, D, signed into law, SB150 requiring a county or city government to develop a water resource plan that contains an analysis of existing water demand in the community. Under SB150, water demand projects require a look at projected growth. If correctly done, projected growth statistics take into account birth and death rates and factor in economic impacts such as recessions.
Further, SB150 requires these branches of government to identify “all known sources of surface water, groundwater, and effluent that are physically and legally available for use in the community.”
SB150 does allow a local water district to conduct the planning for the community. Still, the plan requires that both the Mesquite City Council and the VVWB avoid logical inconsistencies in their economic planning and follow the Nevada water policy to determine water availability scientifically.
The City Council is solely responsible for creating water demand (growth) through its issuance of construction permits and business licenses. The VVWB assures the City Council without scientific evidence that supplies of water exist. The Council accepts the VVWB assurance without question.
Both the Mesquite City Council and the VVWB are pushing the same logical fallacy of inconsistency that growth in population is simultaneously met by available water.
Continuing such illogical thinking will eventually turn the local area into a squatters paradise.
[i] An Equivalent Dwelling Unit represents the water usage of 1 typical single family residential connection. Upon defining the amount of water used by 1 EDU (using historical meter data), non-residential water users, such as resorts or golf courses, can be converted into EDU’s based on their actual respective usage.
[ii] This fallacy is known as a fallacy of inconsistency.
[iii] The maximum amount of water that can be salvaged each year over the long-term without depleting the groundwater reservoir. If perennial yield is continually exceeded, groundwater levels will decline.
[iv] Former Nevada State Water Engineer Jason King, then Nevada’s State Water Engineer, told Nevada’s legislative Committee on Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Mining on March 14, 2017).
[v] Nevada State Law does not mandate how perennial yield is calculated or used for water rights administration. Tim Wilson, Nevada State Water Engineer, in email to Michael M. McGreer June 28,2020.
[vi] King, Jason, P.E., State Engineer, “Nevada Water Law, Current Issues, 2018 Water Summit, January 30, 2018.