The Merriman-Webster Dictionary has two simple definitions of the word “redundant.” The first is “Repeating something else and therefore unnecessary,” and the second definition is “Used to describe part of a machine, system, etc. that has the same function as another part and that exists so that the entire machine, system etc. will not fail if the main part fails,”
At the Virgin Valley Water District, we have two directors who believe in the first definition and three that believe in the second meaning. And, the argument of the last four months over a second or “redundant” water line across the Virgin River is about to begin again as the board starts its budget discussions for the next fiscal year on March 16.
At the heart of issue however, are politics and not water lines.
First, look to the history of the VVWD. In 1993 the Virgin Valley Water District was created out of the merger of the Bunkerville Water Users Association and the Mesquite Farmstead Company. Mesquite was still a basically rural agricultural area but was growing fast, and the need for a larger municipal system was clear.
But how to distribute board members between Bunkerville and Mesquite? The compromise reached was to base the number of directors from each area on the amount of water each entity had rights to. Since Bunkerville had about 40 percent of the water and Mesquite had 60 percent, membership on the new elected district board were allocated 2 for Bunkerville and 3 for Mesquite. Today, that agreement still holds, and directors Bubba Smith, Sandra Ramaker and Barbara Ellestad were elected by Mesquite voters and directors Rich Bowler and Nephi Julien were elected by Bunkerville voters.
Directors Ramaker and Smith have been consistent in saying that they only want to spend money on infrastructure on the Mesquite side of the river and prioritize repairs not new lines. Ramaker has also been up-front in that she wants the water district reorganized to either elect all directors at large, and in essence eliminate the Bunkerville representatives or as “a compromise” reduce the Bunkerville directors from two to one.
While that might seem reasonable as there are many more voters on the Mesquite side of the river, what it really would lead to is breaking up the VVWD, as Bunkerville would never agree to losing its representation. Also, because the VVWD Charter was legislatively adopted, it would take a legislative change.
What would Mesquite residents gain from a breakup? Total political control of their water and water rates but not much else.
The loss of 40 percent of the available water rights would insure that “no growth” becomes a reality for Mesquite and not a slogan. Also, the water quality on the Bunkerville side of the river is much higher than the well water on the Mesquite side, and requires a higher and more expensive level of treatment for arsenic.
The argument that repairs and maintenance should be prioritized is not all wrong. But you cannot repair a line without redundancy and still provide water. Residents of Sun City and businesses and residents south of I-15 need to understand that they have one, and only one line supplying their areas. If those lines fail Sun City loses all its water and the area south of I-15 will face strict rationing. Which is one reason why the Chamber of Commerce told the board to get moving on the second line across the river.
The question is why can’t the district do both? With the water rate increase we were told that capitol projects including both redundant lines could be done with repair and maintenance. According to the district manager and staff we can do both. So why don’t we? Ask your elected VVWD board members.