VVWD To Hold Meeting On Water Supply

The Virgin Valley Water District (VVWD) scheduled a special meeting for Wednesday morning for the purpose of approving an emergency bid and wound up having a tense discussion on whether or not the District has adequate water for future growth.

Director Sandra Ramaker responds to her critics on the VVWD Board. Photo by Burton Weast

Director Sandra Ramaker responds to her critics on the VVWD Board. Photo by Burton Weast

At issue was the testimony of Director Sandra Ramaker before the Mesquite City Council the previous evening.  In her comments to the Council, Ramaker identified herself as a private citizen, and then questioned why the Council was considering development in the new Exit 118 industrial area when it wasn’t known if there was adequate water.

Board Chair Nephi Julien stated that the board would deal directly with the supply issue at their next meeting on October 20th.  “We will be discussing the approved 2012 Master Plan for the district,” said Julien.  Pointedly, Julien also said that Ramaker had voted for the plan, which was passed unanimously, and that the plan indicated the District had adequate water supply for the next 40 years.  Julien added “Ramaker voted for the 2012 Plan so she should know what was in it.”

Director Barbara Ellestad directly criticized Ramaker for her comments to the Council.

Ellestad said she has commented in public meetings as a citizen, but never on water issues because perceptions are a reality when people know she is a VVWD board member.  “I was very disturbed last night at my colleges statement as she has no proof there is not enough water to serve potential residences or businesses,” said Ellestad.  Ellestad further stated that Ramakers comments were damaging to the District and to the City as a whole.

Director Rich Bowler suggested that they shouldn’t discuss the issue any further as they will be holding an advertised public meeting on the subject.

On the actual advertised purpose of the meeting, the Board approved a contract with Staker and Parson Companies for paving and other repairs to the area of a water line break on Oasis Drive.  Five companies submitted legal bids ranging from $61,304.43 to the low bid of $40,535.50 by Staker and Parson Companies of St. George.


  1. Art Hansen says:

    Not one single board member at VVWD knows how much water is in basin 222. To criticize Ramaker for asking a sensible question is irresponsible and shows incompetence by those who do so. How can Mesquite possible anticipate future growth when we don’t know how much water is available. VVWD has long dragged their feet on this issue because certain people do not want the citizens to know the answer. Ramaker was right! If she isn’t, then simply answer the question without beating around the bush. Open and transparent.

    • Bill Luedke says:

      Just like cost effective electricity, responsible development cannot happen without an adequate water supply and it would be wholly irresponsible to pre plan any large scale long term “speculative” project without insuring such, actually, guaranteeing such. After all, if there is not enough water, who would be interested in any long term purchase or lease commitment? Going forward without that insurance would be foolhardy, fiscally irresponsible, and potentially a development nightmare for the folks who lost their money.

  2. Brandon Cox says:

    Art, in the article it states, by Board Chair Nephi Julien, that Sandra voted for the 40 year master plan, and knew what was in the report. Sure, as a Board member Sandy has every right to ask these specific questions to the GM and Staff and should have been harping on them until she got the answer she wanted. It’s okay for Members of a governing board to ask questions for those who elect them, and the questions should be asked! VVWD Board of Directors should do an independent study of Basin 222 to know exactly how much water there is, or close enough to know. If District administrators have been dragging their feet, hold them accountable! Pack the meetings and demand to know in Public Comment.

    However, if there is enough water to support growth for the next 40 years, the City needs to attract more businesses in this town to support the majority of the population: the middle class workers! Water is key, no doubt, but if the City and the Chamber are going to drag their feet, maybe the WD needs to step up and take the lead. Honestly.

  3. Mike McGreer says:

    The VVWB plan is a 2012 update to a 2010 plan. At best the Board is speculating on water availability in the 222 Basin and how long water, including spring water, would last into the future.

    In a June 18th article in the Desert Valley Times, Jason King, Nevada’s Water Engineer, said “I’m not sure how much water is in the aquifer now, I couldn’t even estimate how much is there.” VVWD hydrologist Aaron Bunker said: “It would take a extensive work to figure out how much water is in the aquifer right now,” A study of the basin had been proposed by former VVWD manager Ken Rock but rejected as “too costly” even through federal funding was, in part, available.

    Nonetheless, Kevin Brown, VVWB manager, said in the June 18th article “that Mesquite and Bunkerville have sufficient water for decades.” Brown reinforced his position during a Mesquite Chamber of Commerce meeting on October 14, when he said that he would bet his reputation that enough water existed to last until 2050. Brown’s statements are political, as is any conclusion to that effect in the VVWB plan. They are not scientific primarily because the VVWB has refused to study the aquifer as suggested by Rock some years ago. .

    However, a satellite study by Jay Famiglietti of University of California conducted between December 2004 and November 2013, the Colorado River Basin lost a total of 65 cubic kilometers of water, or roughly the equivalent of two full Lake Meads. Basin 222 is part of the Lower Colorado River Basin.

    But water in the aquifer is not really the issue when it comes to development. Permits are. The VVWB holds 21,272 water rights permits (called Equivalent Development Units or EDU’s). However, as of now, 10,983 (53.63% of those permits are committed to serving existing customers. Another 6,655 (31.29%) are committed to developers as “will serve,” obligations. That leaves 3,633 (17.08%) for future developers.

    If the VVWB decides to stick to phasing its ground water permits until 2050 it can only issue (3,633/35 years)103.81 EDU’s per year. That may or may not be enough to even serve projected development projects by Sun City let alone various proposals for truck stops, and warehouses in the Industrial community. Of course no knew golf courses or expansions to recreational opportunities.

    Getting more permits, given the competitive environment for water is doubtful at best but, of course should be tried as should a full study of the entire basin.

  4. Now it begins. Just as predicted. Mesquite Local News with editor and VVWD board member Barbara Ellestad orchestrating an anti-Sandra Ramaker narrative from her perch at the local newspaper. Typically reporters don’t show up for quick bid discussions, but in this case, Mesquite Local News did. Where Barbara is the editor. In order to write a piece specifically to disparage Sandra Ramaker’s credibility and reputation. Barbara gets her anti-Ramaker remarks in front of “her” reporter against Ramaker so it can be in the newspaper, all the while acting like she’s not involved in this charade. What a joke. Sandra Ramaker asked a reasonable question at the city council meeting during public comments. What are the city’s plans for developing 118 and has anyone considered whether there is adequate water supply? Because Ramaker is a board member of the water district she has no right to ask that question during public comments at a city council meeting where the issue is being discussed? That her voice as a citizen should be silenced? That Ramaker portrayed herself as a private citizen and not speaking on behalf of the water board is somehow unethical? The most ethically challenged individual on the water district board is Barbara Ellestad who, as an elected official, sought an editor’s position with a local newspaper where she can tailor the news to fit her views. Ellestad has a long history of activism and trouble with the truth. If Ellestad wants to pursue journalism, then she should have STEPPED DOWN in her ELECTED position as a board member of VVWD because the conflicts of interest are so great. But she’s greedy for power and she hates Sandra Ramaker on whom she has written hit pieces before. Every citizen in this community should be concerned about the drama and dysfunction orchestrated by Barbara Ellestad in the water district — where there is a history of back door deals to benefit the few. Water will make or break this community and the truth is, we don’t know how much water is in this valley because proper studies have not been done. I’m glad Sandra Ramaker is asking the question. It is the right thing to do. What’s alarming is how determined “the powers” are to shut down Ramaker’s voice. What is Ellestad & Friends so desperate to hide from the rest of us about the state of water in our valley? That’s what I want to know.

  5. It would really be a shame if the city sells land at exit 118, and then the water district is not able to supply enough water to meet the needs of the buyer. Maybe it’s time for prospective buyers to make their needs known, and get commitments, or not get commitments as the case may be.

  6. I believe Ms Ellestad’s comments were seriously unfair to Sandra Ramaker.
    She attacked Ms. Ramaker’s credibility on the grounds she had no proof! There was no reason for Ramaker to have proof to say as private citizen “it is not known if there is adequate water”. How do you provide proof of the unknown? Any uncertainty about our water supply is cause for concern and it was courageous of Ms. Ramaker to voice her concerns to council. Also,since the subject has been discussed publicly on more than one occasion.her comment can’t be construed to be based on insider information. The question water supply has been bandied about whenever the subject of the failure of the VVWD over the years to authorize spending money for routine maintenance and a much needed independent study to assess how much is available has come up. Guesstimates will not suffice because if they’re wrong and we permit development beyond our supply, we will have to pay dearly for alternate sources and we may even wind up at the mercy of those few who have pretty much monopolized private water rights. Pretty scary thought. We’d be in a world of hurt if the guesstimators are wrong so it was critically important that someone speak up. All ratepayers should stand with Sandra Ramaker on this and demand an independent state of the art study be done before we commit what we may not be able to deliver.

  7. Brandon Cox says:

    Will someone please explain how an elected board member of the water district can ask the city council if there is enough water for the long haul? I don’t share the same kind of negativity as some posted on this thread, because I don’t know either board member but one would think a water district board member would know this and not ask the city council, yes? And if said board member does not know the answer, what are they doing on the board of directors? Just a fair question…

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