City ‘won’t run out of water’

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Emergency projects ready to be launched

By Martin Salazar

With the snowpack water equivalent at about .2 inches, water flow in the Gallinas at about one-eighth of what it was last year and city reservoirs only being about 65 percent full, 2013 is shaping up to be another difficult year in terms of the city’s water situation.

But Las Vegas Utilities Direct Ken Garcia says the city has contingency plans in place to ensure that Las Vegas’ water supply doesn’t dry up.

“We’re not going to run out of water,” he told the City Council during an impromptu water presentation on Wednesday.

Garcia said the amount the city currently has in storage is roughly equal to a 65-day supply. But he said a number of factors are coming into play that will enable the city to stretch out its water supply.

Garcia stressed that while the river flow is low, the city is continuing to draw water from it, and the city also has the ability to draw about 10 percent of its water needs from the Taylor Wells Field.

Also helping the city is the fact that Las Vegas residents are currently using only about 1.4 million gallons of water a day, about a million gallons less than they were using in 2011.

Another plus for the water situation is that the city recently completed its pump-back system below Peterson Reservoir. Peterson has been leaking about 65 million gallons of water annually. For  more than a year, the city has been working on a pump-back system to help it recapture the water being lost.

Garcia said that project just came on line last Friday. City officials say they won’t be able to pump back all of the water under the agreement they reached with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but the net gain for the city is 40 more days of water.

That means that the city will be able to stretch out its water supply.

The decrease in use and the pump-back system also means that the city isn’t likely to see a huge plunge in its storage as it saw in 2011, when its reservoirs dropped down to about 50 percent, Garcia said.

Decent monsoons in 2011 and an emergency purchase of water from the state Game and Fish Department helped replenish the city’s reservoirs that year.

City officials say water isn’t available from Game and Fish this year. And because the city doesn’t know what kind of monsoons it’s going to get this year, Garcia and his staff have been busy preparing for the worst.

The city has publicized the longterm projects it has been working on, such as the Bradner Dam expansion. Most of those projects, however, will take years to complete and won’t have an immediate impact on this year’s water situation.

Garcia and his staff have been working on a number of contingency projects, as well, to ensure that Las Vegas can continue providing water to its customers.

Those projects including everything from rehabilitating old wells to blending brackish water with good water to make the supply last longer. Another project on the table involves tapping into water from the skating pond.

Garcia said he’s confident that the city has enough water on hand to get through the summer. If the monsoons materialize, and the city is able to replenish its storage, it will likely end up shelving most of the emergency projects. If the monsoons don’t materialize in July, he said, then the city will likely begin implementing the emergency projects, Garcia said.

The city has 14 emergency projects in the works. The city is implementing the top two projects right away and, due to the cost of pulling the trigger on all of the emergency projects, is holding off on implementing the rest.

The top priority emergency project involves replacing the pumping equipment in the old Taylor Well No. 2. The city estimates that it can get 130 gallons a minute out of that well, and the cost of the project is estimated at $125,000. The second highest priority project involves taking the brackish water coming out of Taylor Well No. 7 and blending it with good water so that it meets safe drinking water standards. Garcia said it won’t be the best water, but it’ll stretch out the city’s water supply. The estimated cost of that project is $100,000.

The remaining projects, in descending order of priority, are:
• Reaching an agreement with Highlands University and acquiring necessary easements to use the well Highlands has at the golf course. Garcia estimates that the Highlands well can generate about 75 gallons a minute.

• Cleaning, testing and equipping the existing Taylor Well No. 6.

• Taking steps to use the PNM Valencia well.

• Installing a pump at the Montezuma Skating Pond to tap into that water.

• Installing a pump at Storrie Lake. The water level at the lake is currently significantly below the city’s intake pipe.

• Using the Cabin Site Well.

• Purchasing water from Storrie Lake.

• Rehabilitating Taylor Well No. 5.

• Getting permission from the West Las Vegas School District to use its well, which is in need of work.

• The new Taylor Well No. 2 is producing significantly less water than initially expected.

This project would involve going in and shocking the aquifer in hopes of increasing the yield. Garcia called that project costly and risky, because the well could end up producing even less water.

• Issuing a Request for Proposals to use domestic wells that people have in Las Vegas.

• Capturing water that has seeped around Bradner.

The estimated costs for the emergency projects exceeds $1.4 million. If every one of those projects were to be pursued, and if the city were successful on all of them, Garcia estimates they could result in 1.5 million gallons of water per day.