Water planning

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By Optic Editorial Board

It was an information-packed meeting Wednesday, when city officials and consultants presented their preliminary study and recommendations for Las Vegas to tackle its water problems.

The bottom line: It’s going to cost. A lot.

No surprise there. Everyone should know by now that the city is too heavily dependent on the Gallinas River for its water supply,  that our reservoirs are badly in need of repair, and that our water lines are leaking like sieves. No one said it would be cheap to address any of these problems.

But there is no greater investment into the future of Las Vegas than to secure an ample supply of water for the decades ahead. Economic development, education, housing, agriculture, quality of life — these and other important issues depend first and foremost on an adequate water supply.

As part of this plan, consultants for the city are recommending projects to add storage capacity to the all-important Peterson Reservoir and fixing the Bradner Dam, getting more wells going in the Taylor Wells field, and budgeting more than a half-million dollars a year more than 20 years to slowly but surely fix the city’s leaking water lines.

The plan calls for a phased approach that would cost $108.6 million over 40 years — nearly half of that within the first five years. City Utilities Director Ken Garcia said the financing plan is still being worked out, but part of it will certainly be a water rate increase (how much, he said, will depend on the amount of state and federal funding the city can obtain). Plus, consultant Paul Cassidy said, revenue bonds could be sold to help cover the costs.

This latest study, at a cost of about $600,000, had better be worth it.

Garcia said it’s meant as a roadmap for the city to solve its water problems, with technical reports allowing the city to qualify for state and federal funding sources to pay for the recommended projects. We hope these reports prove valuable, or else this entire study will have been a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars.

And that’s really the bottom line — whether this study will be truly effective. The final report is due this month. Then it becomes a matter of money and implementation.

If the city can make such a massive, long-term, multi-faceted project work, the benefits will be tremendous. But that’s a big if. Here’s hoping the city can pull it off.