VVWD Board Answers Water Critics

In a marathon meeting, the Virgin Valley Water District discussed assertions by a board member and a Mesquite resident that the District faced a water shortage.  The meeting on Oct. 20, was the result of Director Sandra Ramaker asking for two issues to be placed on the board agenda and Mesquite resident Mike McGreer asking for time on the agenda to re-visit studies of springs as a potential water source.

Virgin Valley Water District Board Members from left to right, Rich Bowler, Sandra Ramaker, Nephi Julien, Barbara Ellestad and Robert "Bubba" Smith. MLN File photo.

Virgin Valley Water District Board Members from left to right, Rich Bowler, Sandra Ramaker, Nephi Julien, Barbara Ellestad and Robert “Bubba” Smith. MLN File photo.

Director Ramaker last week had addressed the Mesquite City Council as a private citizen and questioned whether there was adequate water for potential development of Exit 118.  Ramaker also submitted an email request to VVWD District Manager Kevin Brown stating reasons for reconsideration of an earlier board decision to fund a study of springs located in the area of the Virgin Mountains being considered for National Monument designation.

In public comments, Byron George of Friends of Gold Butte told that board that his group favored VVWD access to the area.  “We know it is important for VVWD to have access to Gold Butte,” said George.

Before discussing the requests from Director Ramaker and McGreer, Board Chair Nephi Julien asked District Hydrologist Aaron Bunker to review the water situation in the district.  Bunker provided a detailed report on the status of water resources in the district, including water rights and status of the aquifer in Basin 222, which provides the majority of the district water supplies.

Bunker noted, “Since 2000, the actual water use per EDU (Equivalent Dwelling Unit) has gone down.”  Reasons for the decrease were water conservation by residents and businesses according to Bunker.  He also told the board “As is stated in the 2012 Master Plan, the district has adequate water supplies until 2050.”

In response to questions, Bunker outlined the studies done on Basin 222, all of which indicate the area as an excellent water source for the district.  “The recharge rate for the wells in the basin are stable, indicating we are not drawing down on basin,” said Bunker.

Director Rich Bowler then reviewed the email memo sent by Ramaker and questioned several of the statements.  Ramaker stated in the email that the recently authorized study of springs did not include all the springs the district had water rights on and said that “The VVWB (Virgin Valley Water District Board) does not know how much water is actually available to us, now and in the future.”

The email also asserted that the contract for the study should have gone out to public bid and that the proposal “suggests an unintentional violation of bidding laws.”

Bowler corrected Ramaker saying that the study did include all the springs and that the contract for the study was for less than $50,000 which is the amount required by state law to go to public bid.

The issue of a study for Basin 222 was discussed at length.  Director Barbara Ellestad noted that at the 2012 meeting where a majority of the then board voted not to do a study of the basin the issue was the lack of participation by the states of Arizona and Utah.  “Both states declined to participate and would not abide by it anyway, as it would be a study by a dinky water district.”  Chair Julien asked staff what such as study would cost.  Bunker responded “About $1,000,000 dollars.”  General Manager Brown added that there would also be costs for installing infrastructure to measure flows, probably costing the district an additional $1,000,000.

Ellestad read a newspaper article from June 2015 that quoted State Engineer Jason King saying “despite the ongoing drought throughout the west Mesquite is in outstanding shape and going strong. The Virgin Basin is in very good shape.”

Director Bubba Smith told the board he did not believe “Arizona and Utah would ever cooperate on a study unless the feds told them too.”  Smith added  “We just have to do the best job we can for the citizens of the valley.”

The board then moved to the agenda item requested by Ramaker for the board to reconsider the decision to study the springs as a potential water source.  Director Ramaker said “I really believe we need to reconsider this.  I voted for this but I really don’t believe it is necessary.”  Ramaker noted the board in February decided not to do the study, and that she was concerned it would turn into a large cost for the district.

At the end of the discussion, Mesquite resident Mike McGreer urged the board  “Do a cost benefit analysis of using the springs and update the 2012 Master Plan.”

Director Smith said “I was one of those who was opposed to the study.”  He added that he was now convinced to do the study as a way to “get our foot in the door” when the area is designated by the federal government.  Smith also said that the study is a way “to get a cost benefit analysis.”

Ramaker moved to reconsider but there was no second and the motion died.

In other business the board approved the changes to Ordinance II that were allowed by the passage of SB 271 by the legislature.  Under the new conditions the district will contact those who received “will serve” letters but have not used them.  The letters will need to be renewed in the future and an annual fee paid for maintaining the letters.  The district anticipates that a majority of the will serve letters will be rescinded freeing up water for other users.

The board also decided not to renew the federal lobbying contract with Patton Boggs which was costing the district $20,000 per year.  The district shares the contract with the City of Mesquite.  Staff was directed to notify the City of their action.


In June 2009, VVWD adopted a Master Plan for the District.  In 2012 the Master plan was updated.  Both the plan and the update were done by Bowen, Collins and Associates of St. George.

The purpose of the Master Plan is to calibrate the water distribution system, evaluate source water treatment and storage capabilities, identify supply requirements for future conditions and identify existing and future operating deficiencies.

The Master Plan also identifies capital improvements needed for current and future conditions.

Summary of Master Plan Conclusions

–Between 2011and 2020 the population of the Mesquite service area will increase 2.3 percent on an annual basis, for a total of 25,339 residents.

–Water use varies by time of day and time of year, with most water use occurring during the summer months.  Highest water usage months are May through Oct.

–About 49 percent of water usage is indoors, and 51 percent is used outdoors, primarily for irrigation.

–Residences use about 47 percent of total water supply, while casinos and multifamily housing use about 10 percent each.  Golf courses consume about 4 percent of total water used.

–The district relies heavily on three of the eight wells in the system.  Wells 27, 31 and 33 produce about 70 percent of the average annual production.

–The plan estimates that “…adequate usable yield is available to meet projected average day production requirement through 2050.”

–The district will have sufficient water supplies through 2050 without increasing conservation efforts.  However, the report states that due to uncertainly in growth forecasting, the district should encourage conservation.

–The plan recommends that in order to reliably satisfy projected peak demands (high water use periods) the district should add new supply through storage in the following intervals:  2014, 2021, 2032 and 2043.

–The report recommends that a 20-inch line and a storage tank be installed to meet future growth demands in the Pulte Homes area.  Also, the report identifies several other system improvements necessary to serve additional growth.

–Finally, the Master Plan recommends several actions including rate review, new development review to avoid pressure issues, beginning site evaluations for new wells and installing a system wide monitoring network.


  1. Brandon Cox says:

    So Sandy Ramaker asks to do a study of these springs, Bubba Smith said he was against it in February but now decides it is a good idea, but doesn’t 2nd Ramaker’s motion?

    What are these 2 doing on the water district board?

    P.S. – you bet your ass Arizona and Utah will not be apart of any study of the water basin – remember when Arizona fought hard to keep their water? Someone commented on another story that Arizona is going to funnel the water to their other residences; not true. That water is staying where it is.

  2. Mike McGreer says:

    The studies referred to are based upon planning assumptions, that discount the impact of scientific data on the current drought, population densities, and demand by other jurisdictions. They are not to be taken seriously. Even Nephi Julien, President of the Board admitted that a basin study should be done at some time. Ms. Ramakers argument was that the money to study the springs would be better spent on a basin study.

    Ellestad quoted the headline of the article about the drought. However, she did not mention that nowhere in the article does Nevada Water Engineer Jason King confirms (for the state) that “no drought exists in the Valley,” as the headline, suggests. King actually said “If the drought continues over the years then maybe the drought would be more impactful on Mesquite”.

    Further, King said about water in the aquifer , “I’m not sure how much water is in the aquifer now; I couldn’t even estimate how much is there.”

    I did not see any mention about the potential arsenic levels in the springs, nor the cost to process the water, if it exists in your article Nor did I see any mention of where the process would occur (Bunkerville) nor the inadequate treatment facilities to do the processing.

    More precisely my recommendation was to have a professional (objective) geologist and hydrologist explore the rivers and do a cost benefit analysis to convey the water to a place where it can be processed. Further I recommended that if sensor were used they should be those used and deployed by the USGS in order to provide an integrated real-time data analysis.

    One should remember that Aaron Bunker is not a trained and qualified hydrologist. He was given the job, as an assistant to former hydrologist Mike Johnson, when his father asked former manager Mike Winters to employ him.

  3. Having attended a good share of this meeting, all I can say is McGreer and Ramaker are not friendly to growth in Mesquite. I was appalled at McGreer’s behavior at the meeting. He is a bully and has an agenda of a progressive socialist. Ramaker is his proxy. This is the American way to allow bullies to push people around and puppets to do their bidding. On a personal note I like both of them, but to deny their anti business motives would be irresponsible and they are not in favor of any progress in this city. They are Agenda 21 advocates and not much more.

    • Brandon Cox says:

      Well said.

      I don’t know either personally, but as a lifetime resident of this Valley, change is inevitable. Some good, some not. You’re right Connie when you say denial of business growth is irresponsible. My friends were talking about this recently; everyone has an opinion of things, but it’s the same people at the Council meetings bitching and the people who have lived here the longest don’t take the time to show up and express themselves.

      Enough with the retirees, when will Mesquite enticing younger-friendly businesses to show up? Water park? Mini golf? Another bowling alley? There are lots of ideas to be expressed. As that pinhead Kanye West ranted, “listen to the children, bro!”

    • Marty Locke says:

      It is truly puzzling when the evidence of prolonged and serious drought is all around us, many small towns in this part of the country are running out of water, farmers are in trouble and there seems to be no end of the drought in sight, yet small minds attack the messengers while ignoring the message. No one I have heard on this issue is anti business or anti growth, they are simply responsible business and responsible growth. Regarding VVWD and OPD, we should follow Ronald Regan’s advice – trust but verify. Verify there is adequate resources before making errors that will ultimately destroy a wonderful community. As for attracting young families, the only thing that will do it is jobs, jobs, jobs. Nothing else. And significant businesses will not come here either unless there is proof of adequate water. It is not the messenger, it is the message. Pay attention to the message.

  4. Vickie Jensen says:

    The General Manager of VVWD and the VVWD board president both said there is only 15 years of water left maybe slightly longer if growth remains the same. It is inconceivable that the facts are not crystal clear – Mesquite does not have enough water to allow unrestrained growth. A couple more years of drought and the water board will be begging to do a study of basin 222.

  5. Lee R Harper says:

    I and my wife have been here for tree years in Sun City. I wished someone could get them to cut there water use on the common areas in the fall and the winter. And I have read about the low water pressure in the paper, mine is under 50 p.s.i. All my neighbors would rather look at water tanks and have more p.s.i.

Speak Your Mind