Virgin Valley Water District – Water Availability Status
The extreme drought conditions that are plaguing the southwestern United States have been making headlines around the country. The Colorado River and its tributaries are running at historically low flows due to the lack of snow pack from last winter in Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah. The two major water storage facilities on the Colorado River, Lake Mead and Lake Powell are at historic low water levels. Yes, things are in dire shape for many communities, large and small, in the southwest.
So what about Mesquite and Bunkerville? Fortunately, the Virgin Valley Water District (District) does not depend on the Colorado River or its tributaries for our culinary water supply. The District does own some shares in the Mesquite and Bunkerville Irrigation Companies that are currently leased to local farmers, golf courses, and Southern Nevada Water Authority. Those irrigation shares are on the Virgin River, a tributary of the Colorado River. One day when needed, the District will utilize those Virgin River shares for culinary water needs. That is planned to be in the 2030 timeframe.
In the meantime, the District currently provides water for residents and businesses in Mesquite and Bunkerville from wells drilled deep into the aquifer below. The District currently has nine operational wells with two more being drilled. The water from the wells supplies sufficient water for the residential and commercial bathing, drinking, irrigating, and cooking needs in the area. And due to historical conservation measures implemented early in the residential growth years (desert landscaping, low flow plumbing fixtures, smaller sized homes and building lots, 100% treated wastewater reuse for irrigation, etc.), the residential metered use of 0.34 acre-feet per equivalent residential dwelling unit is on par with many of the leading water conservation communities in the Southwest.
While we as a community overall are doing well, we can always improve, and we should. Things such as reducing unnecessary turf, replacing high water need foliage with more drought tolerant plants, being more efficient in outdoor watering, and making adjustments to indoor water use are starting points.
So how is the health of the aquifer? The District has many groundwater monitoring wells throughout the valley to determine if the aquifer is being stressed. The District monitors the wells on a monthly basis. Based on the current pumping rate (the District pumps about 7,000 acre-feet of water per year), the aquifer’s static water level has not appreciably changed over the past several decades. In addition to the groundwater monitoring wells, the District has multiple remote mountain peak precipitation gages to monitor precipitation levels. Ultimately, the precipitation received in the surrounding mountains (snow or rain) becomes the water that recharges our aquifer.
The District is in the process of performing a Perennial Yield Study of the aquifer to improve on several older studies to determine what the safe yield of the aquifer is. The results of the study won’t be available until sometime later this year or early 2022. Some existing studies indicate that there may be additional groundwater that could be allocated to the District in the future for additional growth purposes.
Eventually the growth won’t be sustainable and will have to stop. Based on our Master Plan (see Table 3-10 on page 3-10), the Virgin Valley’s population will eventually be between 50,000 – 70,000 residents. There are a variety of factors in play which is why there is such a large range of low and high projections.
The bottom line is the Virgin Valley Water District is in great shape to deal with the drought, climate change, and growth for the foreseeable future.