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Options for conservation must be explored

Fall weather will be a welcome change in the next few weeks, it has been a hot summer. Some of the hottest temperatures on record for Southern Nevada. And most of those records have been over the past few years. We can look at the changes in water levels at Lake Mead and know that things are very different from any other time in our lifetimes.

Lake Powell upstream from Hoover (Dam) is seeing levels dropping as significantly as Lake Mead has done. The reality is that there is not as much water available as there was 20 or 30 years ago. We can see it before our very eyes.

The citizens of Boulder City determined 40 years ago that our town would be conservative in the growth of the city. We have taken care over the years to live with what we have and not stretch beyond what our arid and wonderful desert provides.

It is true that we treat our wastewater and discharge some of it into the desert. But we often sell this water to control dust on new solar energy projects or for the quarries that are dissembling the mountains at Railroad Pass. To be clear, I am not a fan of the mountain dissembling projects.

What is clear is the need to do more to conserve or reuse the water we receive from the Colorado River that has made Lake Mead a top-five destination for tourists to national parks. The Colorado River water also provides about half of the power from Hoover Dam we need at costs far below other sources of available power. We cannot receive additional power from the dam but we can lose power if production continues to fall.

Hoover Dam is already operating far below the capacity it is capable of producing. And that is due to the lack of water available to run through the enormous turbines that produce electricity at the dam. While there are at least several years of available production, lake levels continue to decline.

I believe there are possibilities where we can conserve water without jeopardizing what we treasure as “clean, green Boulder City.” But that will take careful effort and input from you.

You may know that the Southern Nevada Water Authority offers up to $3 per square foot to remove grass and replace it with landscaping more appropriate for our desert living. The State Legislature also passed a law that “nonfunctional turf” must be removed. The city will be aggressively working on where we can replace turf with landscaping requiring less water. Each of us can do our part to evaluate our own properties to see if water use can be reduced.

Last year, SNWA proposed a project to “reclaim” wastewater from our city. I opposed this plan as similar plans in the past were clearly intended to support expansive growth in the area of Eldorado Valley below Railroad Pass. I do understand that Councilmember Claudia Bridges as our representative at SNWA was in favor of this project. However, I believe there is a better solution.

First, we need to keep in mind the city already reuses significant amounts of the treated wastewater by selling it for dust control. Each gallon used this way is a gallon not taken from Lake Mead. Second, there is no need to pump the water into Henderson.

I have worked with city staff to determine if our treatment facility can be upgraded and reuse the wastewater for irrigation on golf courses. This project appears to be less expensive initially and would significantly reduce the amount of water the city draws from the lake.

The city of Henderson has now made clear the intent to annex the land below Railroad Pass to promote growth in the area. There will opportunities for those who oppose such growth to provide their input. I do not believe the annexation of that land by Henderson is in the best interest of Boulder City. Growth in that area is expensive to achieve because of the geography and “leapfrogging” beyond existing infrastructure.

Please be safe, Boulder City, during the most recent rise in COVID cases. Safe and effective vaccines are available.

The opinions expressed above belong solely to the author and do not represent the views of the Boulder City Review. They have been edited solely for grammar, spelling and style, and have not been checked for accuracy of the viewpoints.

Kiernan McManus is mayor of Boulder City. He is a native of Boulder City first elected to City Council in 2017.

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