Keep up the momentum

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By Optic Editorial Board

We applaud the city of Las Vegas for its continued efforts to address the city’s long-standing water problems despite the recent rainstorms that have topped off city reservoirs.

In past years, our collective concerns about water shortages would fade as soon as we’d get a little moisture. For all of its faults, the current city administration has done a good job of keeping the water problem front and center as it continues to chip away at the problem, bit by bit.

One of the significant problems the city has faced is limited storage. The city currently has the capacity to store about 1,000 acre feet of water, which is equivalent to four or five months of annual demand, depending on conservation efforts. An acre foot equals 326,000 gallons, enough to service two to three households for a year.

City consultants have advised the city that it needs two to three years of water storage to help get it through prolonged droughts or a catastrophic fire in the watershed.  

The city has been working to expand Bradner reservoir, a project that is estimated to cost about $28 million. City officials are hoping that state lawmakers will appropriate the money needed to make that project a reality.

But that’s only part of the solution.

Last week, the City Council voted unanimously to spend $215,000 on a pilot project to determine whether the city can also store water underground. City councilors were wise to move in that direction.

In the words of Bob Wessely, president of the Las Vegas Community Water Board, if the pilot project fails, it’s a small loss for the city. But if it is successful, it could save the city millions of dollars and go a long way toward solving the city’s storage problem.

Wessely pointed out that once city reservoirs are full, the city has no place to store water flowing down the Gallinas.

If successful, underground water storage would change that.

The project involves injecting treated Gallinas River water into the aquifer beneath the Taylor Well Field and then pulling that water out when it’s needed. The city already has most of the infrastructure in place. Wells at the site could be used to both inject the water and pull it out.

And the city stresses that the river water will be treated to drinking water standards before it is injected into the aquifer.

There’s no guarantee that the project will work, but if it does, it will have a huge impact on the city of Las Vegas.