The Las Vegas Community Water Board offers a quick summary about the community’s progress on water issues in 2007: Talk and some action, but little progress.
The board, a nonprofit group whose stated aim is to find solutions to the water problem, issued a progress report last week.
The report notes that the city didn’t increase its water supplies last year. The city issued a request for proposals to acquire more groundwater but hasn’t acted on any of the proposals received, the board states.
For instance, the city has yet to provide an official response to the Milliken Ranch, which says its wells can produce 2,200 acre-feet a year, those involved say. (That compares to the 2,600 acre-feet the city can take off the Gallinas River every year. )
The report states that the city hasn’t added any storage to its water system. But it acknowledged that the city is negotiating with the Storrie Project Water Users Association to line or pipe the group’s canals. This would be in exchange for the city’s getting more storage capacity at the lake. The state Water Trust Board has approved a $1 million feasibility study for the proposal.
The board’s report states that the city has completed drilling of Taylor Well No. 7, which is southwest of town. But water rights permits must be obtained and the water quality is poor, the board contends.
The report also laments that the city hasn’t taken any new conservation measures in the last year. It did note efforts to sell treated wastewater for irrigation to Highlands University and Las Vegas City Schools, hire a conservation officer, explore the purchase or exchange of water rights with school districts and complete a water audit with the state engineer’s help.
The water board has proposed a new block rate structure to give residents an incentive for conserving water and water harvesting, but the city has yet to take action on these proposals.
The board also contends that the community doesn’t have a unified approach to fund needed water projects. It states that the board, the city and the county have started discussions with the U.S. Geological Survey for a hydrological study for the county and that officials have drafted a joint powers agreement to set up the Upper Rio Grande County of Governments, the result of an idea to increase cooperation in seeking state and federal funding for water projects. That agreement is stalled.
The board reports that the city has collected $400,000 from a new voter-enacted sales tax designated for water projects. “The use of these funds has not yet been determined,” the board’s report states.
City Manager John Avila said the report doesn’t stress enough the advantage of Taylor Well No. 7, which would be in addition to the other operating well, Taylor Well No. 4.
“That’s additional water into the system. We didn’t pay for it; the federal government did. It’s a free well,” he said. “That’s positive.”
Avila also said the city has started conversations with the acequias, or community-operated ditches, about rotating diversions from the Gallinas. He said the city voluntarily stopped diversions last year when the acequias needed to irrigate.
“The overarching priority is that we have to make sure the citizens of Las Vegas have their water supply secure,” he said, adding that the city is willing to help others when its supplies are not at risk.
Avila also emphasized the city is working to acquire water rights from government entities that aren’t using theirs such as the school districts, the state Department of Transportation and the state hospital.
Avila noted that the city has worked with the county and the board in efforts to get money for the hydrological study, which he said was important.
“Now, you can’t tell where you should allow a well and where you shouldn’t,” he said.
Frank Splendoria, secretary with the water board, said the city is working hard on water issues, but what matters is results.
“The bottom line is they need to score. You don’t win by showing up on the field; you need to get into the end zone. Scoring in water is acquiring more storage and supplies,” he said. “We really support what they’re doing.”