Snow has been plentiful this year, but that doesn’t mean much to Bill Pyles.
Like other residents in Ojitos Frios southwest of Las Vegas, Pyles has been seeing his well level drop over time and as a result, his family is conserving every drop it has.
The residents point to a single culprit: The city’s one operating well at Taylor Wells, which is just down the road from the county jail southwest of town.
He said his well has just enough water to fill a bathtub.
“We don’t waste any water at all,” Pyles said. “We have multiple kids sharing the same bathtub, and we’re constantly reusing water.”
In the next few weeks, his family plans to drill another well to help solve the problem. As it stands, Pyles said his well drops two feet a week when the city is pumping at Taylor Wells. The city stopped pumping on Dec. 20, likely because of abundant snowfall.
City officials have long disputed that Taylor Wells affects the more than 80 wells southwest of town. They argue that dry spells are causing well levels to drop and that the residents’ wells are deep enough. The officials complain that the county and the state are allowing too many wells to be drilled in such a small area.
Such explanations don’t sit well with residents southwest of town.
Pyle said when the city stopped pumping at Taylor Wells for awhile in the fall because of a broken pump, his well started increasing by a foot a week.
Jack and Betty Thompson, who also live in Ojitos Frios, said they experienced a similar effect at their house.
The couple has been urging the city to consider the concerns of residents outside of town affected by Taylor Wells.
Now, the city is asking the state engineer to approve the operation of a well drilled last year by the federal government at Taylor Wells — a project that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. With the new well, the city may be able to double what it has been pumping at Taylor Wells, a prospect that upsets nearby residents.
“We’re trying to organize people out here to write a protest letter to the state engineer’s office. We’re just five miles out of Las Vegas, and we do all of our shopping in town. The city tries to pit people against each other,” Betty Thompson said.
Jack Thompson said they are already looking for property elsewhere because of the water problem, although they don’t want to.
“Can we stay here as we get older? We need a steady supply of water,” he said. “The city thinks, ‘We’ll do what we want. The heck with everyone else.’”
The couple is also planning on drilling another well.
Pyles and the Thompsons fear that their property values are dropping quickly, with the Thompsons noting that some houses have been on the market for a while.
Last year, John Romero, an official in the state engineer’s office, said his agency must issue domestic well permits and that it doesn’t warn prospective owners about problems with water supplies southwest of Las Vegas but will provide information if asked.
He has said he doubts the city’s well is to blame. Rather, he said, the domestic wells are affecting one another.
George DuFour, the city’s utilities director, said Friday he was holding a meeting that day on Taylor Wells. He said he could provide more information on the city’s plans this morning. He didn’t return a call for comment.