Editors note: This is the first of five articles identifying the shareholders of Virgin River water who sat on the Virgin River Water Board (VVWB) between 1992 and 2010. During their tenure they used rate payer dollars to accelerate the price of shareholder water from a low $99.34 per Acre Feet Annually (AFA) to a high of $8,836.23 per AFA while the average Nevada market rate for irrigation water was rising from $7.20 to $13.60 per AFA.
Mesquite, NV. July 16, 2018
All sources of water within the boundaries of the state, above and below ground, belong to the public [[i]].”
The VVWB has modified the intent of that statue to read: All sources of shareholder irrigation water held by VVWB will be leased and priced at the sole discretion of the VVWB.
Enough is Enough: Pricing Litigation
On May 15th the owners of Paradise Canyon Paradise Canyon LLC, (Wolf Creek golf course) filed a civil suit (A-18-774539-B) against the VVWB seeking to halt the Districts restrictive pricing practices on water shares the board purchased from Virgin River water shareholders of the Mesquite Irrigation Company (MIC). 
On June 9, Jedidiah Bingham, acting for the VVWB filed a dismissal motion in the Eighth Judicial District, Las Vegas. In the motion, Bingham admitted to significant rate increases imposed on all ratepayers served by the Board. He reported 40 percent increase in 2010, a 38 percent increase in 2015. In 2015, the Board imposed a $10 per month surcharge on water services.
During the June 19, 2018 meeting of the VVWB Bingham admitted that the VVWB spend “millions of dollars” to purchase MIC and Bunkerville Irrigation Company (BIC) irrigation water shares.
A few days later, Bingham told Daniel Rothberg, in an interview for The Nevada Independent that Golf Courses paying low rate for (Virgin River) irrigation water harmed other ratepayers. According to Bingham, “Because the golf courses are paying such a low rate [for irrigation water] the district is not recouping as much money as it could if it were leasing the water at a rate closer to where demand is.
“Every dollar that the district loses is one more dollar that the ratepayers across the valley have to pay to effectively subsidize the low rate to the golf courses,” Bingham told Rothberg.
What Bingham failed to mention is that those losses are the directly linked to the use of public dollars by shareholders of Virgin River water sitting on the VVWB purchasing water from other shareholders.
On June 29, 1925, residents of Bunkerville, NV. established the Bunkerville Irrigation Company (BIC) on one side of the Virgin river. At the same time on the other side of the river residents of Mesquite, NV. formed the Mesquite Irrigation Company (MIC).
These early MIC and BIC pioneers divided the public water into BIC and MIC shares according to their familial needs thus establishing an irrigation based market.
By the mid 80’s the original irrigation based markets were eroding allowing the public water to again flow freely into Lake Mead.
On May 10, 1993 the Virgin Valley Water District (VVWD) was established as a political subdivision of the State of Nevada. The Act joined the Bunkerville Water User’s Association and the Mesquite Farmstead Water Association. The Act gave the Virgin Valley Water Board (VVWB) the ability to tax and raise bonds to cover expenses and set and adjust rates.
The first members of the VVWB included descendants of the original shareholders of Virgin River water. They were John Lee, Cresent Hardy, J.L. Bowler, Todd Leavitt and Sam Reber.
Once formed the board spent $12,159,670.86 for 550 shares (4,992 Acre Feet Annually (AFA)) of Mesquite Irrigation Company (MIC) and the Bunkerville Irrigation Company (BIC). That averages to $2,435.83 per AFA paid.
The prices these shareholders paid for a share of MIC or BIC water varied from $900 ($99.34 per AFA) for one MIC share in 1992 to $80,056.23 ($8,836.23 per AFA) for a BIC share in 2008.
VVWB purchase history links
|1 of 5||Article 1 of 5|
|2 of 5||Article 2 of 5|
|3 of 5||Article 3 of 5|
|4 of 5||Article 4 of 5|
|5 of 5||Article 5 of 5|
[i] public (Nevada Revised Statute (NRS) 533.025 and 534.020),
Articles 2 thru 4 will detail the history of the boards and their spending patterns. Article 5 is a summary and conclusions.
- On June 29, 1925, residents of Bunkerville, NV. established the Bunkerville Irrigation Company (BIC) on one side of the Virgin river. At the same time, on the other side of the river residents of Mesquite, NV formed the Mesquite Irrigation Company (MIC).