Virgin Valley Water District directors heard frustrating news on project delays and costly system repairs during their July 16 meeting. Hydrologist Aaron Bunker explained the district’s highest-producing well 31 will not be returning to production in the near future because a problem of excess levels of iron in the water has not yet been mitigated. The well failed in February, and was expected to return online soon after the pump was replaced.
The prolonged loss of well 31 during peak summer water usage has prompted VVWD management to divert to “Plan B” to assure reliable water service for the district’s 9,000-plus water users. That plan involves putting well 26, located off Hardy Way in the Mesquite Industrial Park, back into operation, powered by a rented pump. The combined production of well 26 along with six other available wells, 1A, 2, 27A, 29, 32, and will handle summer water needs.
Well 26 was taken out of service last year when its water flow decreased due to its advanced age. The average life of a water well in this area is 20 years. Preparations are in progress to replace the old well with a newly-drilled well 26A. After well 26 was taken out of production, well 31 failed and has not yet been cleared to return to the system. Additionally, well 28 is out of service pending replacement of its pump. Manufacturing of that pump has been pushed out an extra 4-6 weeks due to delays at the manufacturer.
Old well 26 is still capable of pumping 800 gallons per minute, and has been equipped with a pump rented from Layne Christiansen, a contractor frequently used by VVWD. The pump was installed as a redundancy measure, and the well restarted in early July after district manager Kevin Brown consulted with board officers concerning the projected costs. Brown’s managerial authorization level for expenditures is $50,000. On Tuesday, the full VVWD board approved the pump rental bill of $52,635 including a monthly maintenance fee of $3,814. The monthly maintenance fee will extend as needed until well 31 can be successfully brought back into production.
Well 26 will be permanently taken out of production when replacement well 26A is brought online, a process that generally takes well over a year to complete.
Besides dealing with water production headaches, substantial damage to Hardy Way occurred on July 11 when a VVWD water main burst, causing the roadway asphalt to disintegrate. The broken main was contained by 5 a.m. Friday, but repair of the westbound lanes of that street will take an extended period, and costs might run into six figures. This year has seen a high number of lateral line breaks, exceeding 100 by midyear, but the break of a main line generally is much more damaging and costly to repair because of the amount of water the line carries. High groundwater temperature and corrosive minerals in the water are contributing factors in line breaks.
The board heard a summary report on the actions of the recent Nevada Legislature session from district lobbyist Warren Hardy. Hardy is contracted by both VVWD and the City of Mesquite to represent the interests of this area.
Hardy reported “good news/bad news” from the recently adjourned session. In his estimation, VVWD fared better than it might have in some water-related issues. But a change in the prevailing wage law, lowering the threshold of project cost to $100,000 where prevailing wage standard is applied, will increase district expenses considerably. Hardy and other rural legislators and lobbyists are working to allow the Virgin Valley and Moapa Valley to operate under wage rules for rural southern Nevada, rather than following standard Clark County guidelines, which are driven by higher labor costs of urban Las Vegas.
Hardy sees the passage of SB140, requiring the state water engineer to permanently reserve 10 percent of remaining groundwater available for use in any basin that has not been fully appropriated, as a long-overdue, sensible action. The law then prohibits that reserved water from being appropriated. While not an issue in VVWD, some other Nevada areas face over-appropriation of water rights and conflicting claims to water.