About 80% of water managed by the Virgin Valley Water Board (VVWB) comes from underground aquifers (Basin 222). The other 20% comes from the Virgin River,[i] a tributary of the Lower Colorado River Basin.
Allowing the VVWB to tap underground resources ignores an inconvenient truth about how much water is available for the communities of Mesquite and Bunkerville NV, about 80 miles northeast of the Las Vegas Metropolitan area.
The US Geological Survey (USGS) has found groundwater connections in the Las Vegas Metropolitan region within a 10-mile radius of the Virgin River and Lake Mead. They forecast that as groundwater withdrawals continue as much as 90 percent of the supply could be drawn directly from Colorado River and its tributaries.
The Virgin Valley Water District (VVWD) draws water from wells with a few miles from the Virgin River. They plan to drill wells directly along the river. See: “Research Findings Dispute Virgin Valley Water Board Claims About Water development.”
Any qualified hydrologist knows that groundwater and surface water are dependent upon each other. They know that pumping groundwater near a stream or from its feeder springs and springs has systemic consequences.
Instead of modeling the entire system, the VVWB runs a hydraulic computer model of the organization’s physical features and characteristics. That includes pipes, valves, storage tanks and pumps and their defined limits to represent the system.
The model output gives their untrained eyes pressure and flow rates for their wells but says nothing about the systemic inter-connective pressure rates and flow inter-dependencies.
interconnections have been a foundation of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s water accounting for decades. Systemic inter-connective modeling, while ignored by the VVWB, is not new. The energy industry began using systemic models to search for new oil. Environmental agencies use such modeling to track pollution.
It is highly probable that the Virgin River is contributing significantly to pressure and flow rates attributed only to wells drilled by the VVWB. If so the VVWB is stealing water from its downriver neighbors while dangerously, and (potentially illegally) taking more water then allowed for Nevada under the 1922 Colorado River Compact.
The systemic dynamics between underground and river resources works both ways. The USGS has found that while streams can be drained by groundwater wells, they can be fed by underground aquifers. That’s how streams continue to run even when it does not rain.
The failure of elected officials at the local, county, state and federal level to deal with the systemic characteristics of Colorado River water is irresponsible. Dealing with the issue means facing the inconvenient truth that water is a scarce resource and its management requires changing outdated water laws, puts a damper of price gouging and water monopolies and likely requires serious cuts in community water budgets.
[i] VVWD estimated reliable yield from wells in Acre Feet Annually 13,317.16). District leases of river water at 3,317 for a total of 17,059.98 AFA