Las Vegas Sun

November 22, 2014

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Water District left out of loop on golf water decision

The Las Vegas Valley Water District is peeved that it has been left out of the loop in the Las Vegas City Council's decision to sell recycled water to three of the city's courses. And Mayor Jan Lavery Jones is peeved that the district is peeved.

In the past, the city has sold fully treated water to the Desert Pines, The Links and the Stallion Mountain golf courses. Monday, the City Council approved an agreement with the courses stipulating that only partially treated water, known as gray water, will be used.

"First of all, we fully support using reclaimed water for golf courses," said David Donnelly, deputy general manager of the Las Vegas Valley Water District and Southern Nevada Water Authority. "We have a number of projects that we are doing the same thing."

What Donnelly does object to is the city's plan, because the water will be redirected to the golf courses rather than back to the Colorado River. This means the water district, and the seven local governments comprising it, will have to make up for that water. No one at the water district was asked or notified of the agreement.

"We (the valley) get credits for water that's treated and sent back to the river," Donnelly said. "Now we'll have to find those credits somewhere else."

Though the city is bound by an agreement not to recycle more than 2,000 acre feet of water without getting the approval of the water district, there aren't any restrictions on the amount of water the courses can use during the duration of their 50-year contracts with the city.

This could become a significant problem, Donnelly said, if there ever is a drought of the Colorado River.

"There is no way of restricting the course's use of water in the future," he said, pointing out that other desert cities like Phoenix refuse to sign 50-year contracts. Instead, those municipalities pass ordinances that can be changed if the climate warrants it. "If there is a drought situation, then you immediately need to cut non-essential uses. There is no ability to do that under the city's agreement."

Sources at City Hall say there's discussion of revoting on the matter. The Council has two weeks before the contract becomes binding, and the Council will be holding its next meeting Dec. 15 -- one week after the item was voted on.

But Mayor Jan Laverty Jones said the idea of pulling the contract because of water credits to the Colorado River is "bull puckey."

In exchange for the credits, Jones said, the valley can't ever receive more than 467,000 acre feet of drinkable water in return.

"So this thing about having to make up the return flow isn't true," she said. "If we could get an unlimited amount of drinking water back for putting water into the river, then there wouldn't be a water problem."

Jones also pointed out that the water in question isn't a diminishing resource. Rather, it could almost be classified as an increasing resource since it's all sewage water.

"The county's just mad because they lost the revenue," she said. "But that's what happens in competition."

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