103°F
weather icon Clear

VOLTZ: Lost opportunities in better water use

Our City Council plunged ahead with further consideration of SNWA’s (Southern Nevada Water Authority) two poorly thought-out water projects on March 14. City Council failed to ask some basic questions before SNWA undertook a wasteful $2.66 million feasibility study using our money. City staff did not think strategically or cautiously about these projects.

To quickly recap, SNWA offered to give us back $26 million of our water purchases for construction of a pipeline to mix raw water at the Black Mountain Reservoir (tank) with treated wastewater, then irrigate city-operated golf courses, parks and other public facilities.

The second proposal involved re-use of the city’s 1930s right of way from Lake Mead to the mothballed water treatment facility, sending processed wastewater to an injection well somewhere east of Hemenway Park. This project generates return-flow credits justifying more development in the Las Vegas Valley. Boulder City receives no direct benefit from these credits, but SNWA would fund all capital costs to build option two.

Several basic questions city officials could and should have asked and answered before making any decisions include:

1. If wastewater treatment plant enhancements brought the water quality from Grade C to Grade A, would that product be usable on the federal cemetery, Veterans Memorial Park and the two city golf courses without harming turf, trees and shrubs? Wouldn’t the federal EPA and/or the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection be able to answer this question?

2. How much money could be saved in capital and operating costs by truncating the pipeline and pumping directly to irrigate only these four facilities?

3. If the city seriously conserved its own water use, not the paltry 5% already committed, could the treated wastewater supply 100 percent of year-round irrigation at the same four facilities?

4. What happens when the multi-decade riparian environment created from discharged wastewater disappears? Why wasn’t the state Wildlife Department’s habitat division consulted for an analysis, without cost to Boulder City, of impact on wildlife species?

5. Why wasn’t the U.S. Geological Service consulted, again at no cost to Boulder City, on whether an injection well anywhere in the Hemenway Valley would enter Lake Mead?

6. Why was BC given four poorly-justified, bloated project options by SNWA without any local citizen input or an SNWA representative present at two city Utility Advisory Committee meetings to answer questions?

One can only speculate that the zest for securing funds from other government agencies temporarily clouded the judgment of city officials on the hard realities of implementing either of these two projects.

They do not address our serious water supply problems today, nor years into the future by the time either project would be designed, sent out for bid, approved, built, and operating.

We have been in the grips of more than two decades of drought in the Colorado River Basin. In Boulder City and the southwestern U.S. generally, we have foolishly assumed Mother Nature will solve the problem of too much water use and inadequate supply. We have completely lost that reckless gamble.

For those who say Boulder City’s three billion gallons of annual water use represents a small portion of total Colorado River water demand, that doesn’t excuse Boulder City from doing what it can to be a responsible water user and acknowledge that we live in a desert, not a place with 40-plus inches of rainfall per year.

In only the last few days, the federal Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) has announced two options for cutbacks of Colorado River water usage: An across-the-board, flat percentage reduction of river draws or cutbacks based on water rights seniority. Either way, Southern Nevada and Boulder City are ill-prepared with concrete plans to reflect new water supply cuts. The BOR has been remiss in not mandating cutbacks years ago. Already the city’s purchased-electricity costs increased by millions of dollars because inexpensive Hoover Dam power has been declining with Lake Mead water levels. We face utility rate increases soon.

The city has embarked on an extended campaign of guilt tripping and nagging residents about their water use when the city itself uses over one-third of the three billion gallons. Shouldn’t the city be setting an example and leading on cutting back its own excessive water use more than 5 percent through fixing broken and non-functioning irrigation and removing far more turf from the two golf courses and elsewhere? Incidentally, none has been slated for removal at Boulder Creek. After months of direct, specific suggestions to city officials, there has been relatively little action or movement on either of these obvious water conserving strategies. Why the serial failure to act?

We can hope that the joint meeting of City Council and the Utility Advisory Committee on April 26 includes frank discussions about all these items and a renewed commitment to take decisive action now, rather than promoting more fiddling and dithering.

THE LATEST
A story of reconciliation amidst division

I keep going into the week when it is time for me to write a column with an idea that I know I want to write about but events keep pushing that idea further out into the future.

Who did more for veterans?

Did President Joe Biden or President Donald Trump do more for America’s veterans? It all depends how one keeps score: Introduce laws? Pass laws? Do large things, or many small things? Important things, or things that were not so important?Below are two examples according to Military.com.

Holy smokes!

Two weeks ago on June 25, I received messages from panicked individuals at the Elks Lodge RV Park stating that the Boulder City Fire Department had been conducting a controlled burn that had gotten out of control.

July is PR Month

For nearly 40 years, the nation has celebrated Park and Recreation Month in July to promote building strong, vibrant, and resilient communities through the power of parks and recreation.

July 4 safety and awareness checklist

As we celebrate our great nation’s birthday, let’s run down this safety and awareness checklist so we can have a blast this 4th… but only the good kind.

“Be Kind, Be Boulder” this Fourth of July

Happy Birthday, America! Today, we celebrate an act of autonomy and sovereignty that happened in 1776, nearly 250 years ago: the Founding Fathers signing of the Declaration of Independence established this great nation. (It would be another 155 years before Boulder City’s founders arrived to construct Hoover Dam!)

Ensuring fire safety at Lake Mead

At Lake Mead National Recreation Area, our mission extends beyond preserving the natural beauty and recreational opportunities.

Independence Day in Boulder City

I was elected to the Boulder City council long ago. Believe me, there were more exciting events that occurred during city council meetings in the mid-to-late 1980s than there are at present. We had Skokie Lennon who arrived in the council meetings while standing at the back of the room. When he had something to say he would erupt with the statement “can you hear me?” Of course we could since he was the loudest person in the room. He would say what he had to say and then leave.

Nothing to fear

A June 13 letter by Norma Vally claimed Pride Month in Boulder City is an example of identity politics that will cause divisiveness in our safe, kind, and welcoming town. I cannot disagree more.

Save me some confetti eggs

In last week’s edition, I wrote a preview of the upcoming July 4 celebration and described Boulder City’s biggest day of the year as if a Norman Rockwell painting had come alive and jumped off the canvas. I had a few people praise me for that description, saying it’s the perfect way to do so.