Virgin Valley Water District (VVWD) is a non-profit quasi-municipal governmental entity created by the Nevada legislature in 1993 to provide adequate and efficient water service, which is vital to the economy and well-being of the residents of the Virgin Valley area. The current service area is 312 square miles in size and includes 2 sections of land (approximately 1,280 acres of land) located in Mohave County, Arizona directly across the state line from the City of Mesquite.
The current source of drinking water supplied by VVWD is from ground water and specifically produced from the Muddy Creek aquifer, which is hydraulically separated from sediments associated with the Virgin River flood plain. VVWD in 2006 operated 9 production wells located in the Nevada portion of the lower Virgin River hydrographic basin. Production rates vary by well from 700 to 3,000 gallons per minute. In 2005 approximately 4,825 acre-feet of drinking water was delivered, which serviced approximately 17,800 people in Nevada and Arizona.
Ground water from the Muddy Creek aquifer does contain small concentrations of arsenic. The arsenic standard was lowered in January 2006 to 10 micrograms per liter from 50 micrograms per liter. The average arsenic concentration in the drinking water supplied by VVWD is 28 micrograms per liter (0.028 milligrams per liter) which currently exceeds the new arsenic standard. VVWD did not meet the 2006 deadline for arsenic but has been given a 3 year extension by the Bureau of Safe Drinking Water to be in full compliance. The consumer confidence report, which is required for all public water supply systems in the United States, is available online at vvh2o.com or from the VVWD office.
VVWD has not been idle waiting for the arsenic issue to be resolved. VVWD has been proactively working on arsenic related issues since the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) contemplated lowering the arsenic standard in 1999. Studies to evaluate treatment alternatives for arsenic were completed in September 2002 and a pilot testing of the arsenic treatment methodologies completed in 2004. All reports on arsenic prepared for VVWD are available for review at the VVWD office. Currently VVWD is under design for 5 arsenic treatment plants for full compliance with the arsenic standard. Final designs are under review by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineer and Bureau of Safe Drinking Water. Funding for construction of the arsenic treatment plants has been procured in excess of $17,000,000. All records associated with funding arsenic treatment plants through the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, EPA and Nevada Division of Environmental Protection are available for inspection at the VVWD office. Construction of the new treatment plants are anticipated to start in early 2007. When the arsenic treatment plants are online the anticipated concentration of arsenic will be between 3 to 5 micrograms per liter, which is lower than the reported values of 7 micrograms per liter. Contrary to allegations, VVWD is not anticipating blending water from Mormon Wells in order not to build the very expensive treatment plants for arsenic. Water returned to Arizona, as proposed in the application will be in compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act. VVWD only purveys drinking water and not treated effluent as insinuated in the public allegations.
Under the export application submitted by Wind River Resources LLC, the water delivered to Nevada must be in compliance with all Safe Drinking Water Act parameters. Nowhere in the application does it state that water returning back to Arizona would NOT be incompliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act. The comments about contaminated water laced with arsenic or treated sewage water being sent back to Arizona are unfounded and unsubstantiated.
The 13,500 acres of land referenced were auctioned to the highest bidder by the Ely Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management, known locally as the Lincoln County Land Act or LCLA. This area is located in the Lincoln County portion of the lower Virgin River hydrographic basin and is not in the service area of VVWD, as defined by the Nevada legislature. Currently the water provider for this parcel of private land is the Lincoln County Water District. Private developers may be attempting to secure use of the ground water from Mormon Wells; however the agreement is only between Wind River Resources LLC and VVWD for use in the existing VVWD service area.
The City of Mesquite may acquire additional land from the Bureau of Land Management. This land is located within the existing service area of the VVWD. VVWD prepared an Integrated Water Resource plan in 2002 to evaluate where growth could occur and predict the appropriate demand on the water resource supply. Should the additional land become available for development, VVWD will take the appropriate measures to provide water for use and development. Currently VVWD can only be proactive and identify where the water resource demands may occur. Until the actual projects apply for water, VVWD can only speculate on the proposed projects.
Under the export application VVWD would return water to Arizona via the municipal distribution system. The municipal distribution system operated by VVWD is constantly changing to meet the needs of the community. Initially, the area adjacent to the VVWD service area could be provided water service. The distribution system could be expanded to include not only Scenic but other communities located in the lower Virgin River basin. Scenic area is merely the first area that could have water service via the municipal distribution system. The application can be amended to provide water to Beaver Dam and Littlefield.
Allegations that pumping from Mormon Wells will cause the wells in Beaver Dam Wash to go “dry” are hydrologically unsubstantiated. A majority of the wells in Beaver Dam are completed in the sands and gravels associated with recent geologic deposits in Beaver Dam Wash. From investigations conducted by the U. S. Geological Survey and published in 1997, a confining unit or aquitard separate the overlying sands and gravels from the underlying Muddy Creek aquifer. The anticipated production wells in the Mormon Wells area will be completed in the underlying Muddy Creek aquifer to minimize impacts to existing wells completed in the community of Beaver Dam. It is anticipated that monitoring wells will be installed to monitor the pumping effects. Should detrimental effects occur, Arizona Department of Water Resources could implement the appropriate mitigation measures.
The closest private land downstream of Mormon Wells is approximately 2.8 miles down gradient and not 1.5 miles as stated. Using published hydrologic parameters from existing production wells in the lower Virgin River basin and reported in the documents submitted to Arizona Department of Water Resources, after 100 years of pumping the maximum amount of predicted drawdown from static water level at the community of Beaver Dam, which is approximately 5 miles away from the pumping center, is 5 feet. Impact from pumping is anticipated to have minimal negative impact to existing wells in the vicinity of Beaver Dam, Arizona.
The biggest threat to existing wells in Beaver Dam is concentrated pumping in the immediate area in which wells are completed in the same water bearing zone. The shallow sands and gravels in the Beaver Dam Wash are probably a water table aquifer. Unregulated pumping near the confluence of Beaver Dam Wash and the Virgin River may induce capture of water from the Virgin River into the water table aquifer. Since the average total dissolved solids water concentration of the surface water is 2,300 milligrams per liter, which is above the drinking water standard, degradation of the ground water quality could occur if over pumping near the community of Beaver Dam occurs.
Subsidence has always been of great concern to VVWD, which participates in research to evaluate subsidence within the lower Virgin River basin. VVWD has ongoing investigations with the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology, Virginia Tech University and the National Science Foundation to utilize the most current technology available to evaluate subsidence in the basin. InSar satellite imagery from the European Space Agency (ESA) has been processed by the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology. Several publications on subsidence and the effect of ground-water pumping are anticipated in the next several years. Subsidence is not anticipated near the community of Beaver Dam as the Quaternary Littlefield formation is exposed at the surface. The Littlefield formation is a siliceous conglomerate identified by Moore (1972) and is highly competent. This type of formation generally is not susceptible to subsidence. The InSar satellite imagery can be utilized to detect subsidence before structural damage occurs and institute the appropriate mitigation measures to alleviate impacts.
VVWD does have an existing agreement with Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) that allows SNWA to purchase Virgin River decreed surface water rights from the private irrigation companies in the Bunkerville and Mesquite areas. This agreement allows SNWA to purchase up to 5,000 acre feet of Virgin River water. Export of the surface water into Lake Mead or the Las Vegas Valley is not allowed until 2025 under the executed agreement. The comment that VVWD will sell water for $25,000 per acrefoot and generate millions of dollars in revenue for VVWD is unfounded and unsubstantiated.
Should additional information be required, please contact the VVWD office between the hours of 8:00 AM and 4:30 PM.