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New well owners’ use may be capped at 450 gallons daily

Well driller Debra Strickland, who is co-owner of Strickland Construction, said she was re-drilling a well Friday for a large family on Thousandaire Boulevard. The dig was scheduled to go as deep as 260 feet.

“They’ll have a huge usage, a big family. The water table may be at 75 feet but they’re sucking it because it’s their old, old, old, old well,” she said. “Their water use is tremendous and that’s a guy that would not benefit from a meter.”

The Basin 162 Groundwater Management Plan Advisory Committee issued a controversial recommendation last week that all new wells drilled be metered and those new well owners be limited to half an acre foot of water per year, which equals 450 gallons per day. Strickland said that shouldn’t create a hardship in most cases.

“It’s a no-brainer because we’re not using the water that we could use,” she said.

The policy would mean more money for well drillers because they get to charge for a meter, which Strickland estimated costs about $450. She said homeowners are charged about $21 per foot for drilling a well, then $1,650 for a one-horsepower pump.

But Strickland asked, “If we start installing meters today, who’s going to read them?”

The advisory committee decided against Smart Meters, used by utilities like Valley Electric Association, where meter readers can scan readings just by driving past a home. Instead the property owner would be required to self report the meter reading every year to the Nevada Division of Water Resources.

For Strickland, her business includes construction and real estate. She said there hasn’t been much demand for drilling new wells lately with the slowdown in the economy.

Committee member Greg Dann, who was appointed to represent well owners, has offered to do free static testing on water levels for well owners. Dann told the board when he’s asked how deep to drill a well, he always tells homeowners to go deeper than what the well driller tells them. Dann’s resume states he worked for a company that installed a pipeline to Yucca Mountain, was the general foreman of a pumping station for the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s second straw project at Lake Mead and supervised the construction of air-cooled condenser duct work for Bechtel at the Ivanpah solar project.

Committee chairman Greg Hafen II said if people want to drill a well more cheaply and go 80 feet deep they could run dry in nine years. But the committee decided against a proposal to require a minimum depth on drilling domestic wells, as an educational tool.

The recently-formed Private Well Owners Cooperative of Nye County, in a recent letter to the state engineer, pledged to fight for the right of well owners to use up to two acre feet of water per year, or 1,800 gallons per day. Cooperative leaders plan to discuss their concerns with State Engineer Jason King, during a series of listening sessions he has planned. They plan to attend the session at 6 p.m., Aug. 5 at the Grant Sawyer Building at 555 E. Washington Ave. in Las Vegas.

The idea of water co-ops is nothing new, a group of 70 customers at Shoshone Estates Recreational Vehicle Park in Carvers, in Big Smoky Valley, took over a struggling water system Jan. 1 and are working to comply with tough, new, federal arsenic standards.

Nye County Water District General Manager Darrell Lacy told the groundwater committee the lowest per capita water usage among communities surveyed in the Southwest was Santa Fe, New Mexico, where residents averaged 52.4 gallons per day for residential use, the average was 102 gallons when all water users were included. Las Vegas calculates a net usage of 75 gallons residential and 133 gallons per day including all users, after a 40 percent credit for recharge into the Las Vegas Wash, which is about 120 gallons per day residential and 220 or 230 gallons per day for all users.

Lacy suggested Prescott, Arizona, would be a fair comparison with Pahrump; residents in that community average 98 gallons per day for residences and 163 gallons for all users. Tucson averages 102 gallons per day residential use and 155 gallons total, he speculated the higher usage in Phoenix of 123 gallons per day residential and 220 gallons total could be due to all the golf courses.

“We’re using 120 (gallons per day) on a utility type per capita residential use and 256 (gallons per day) is actually our per capita residential use and I based that on the most recent pumpage reports,” Lacy said.

The U.S. Geological Survey in 2005 estimated Nevadans’ per capita water use was 190 gallons per day for domestic use only. The estimated per capita use in Nye County was between 205 and 335 gallons per capita per day, with an average of 266 gallons. A water supply investigation report performed by Glorieta Geoscience said Utilities Inc. of Central Nevada customers averaged 299 gallons per capita per day, Desert Utilities customers 221 gallons per capita per day and Pahrump Utility Company Inc. 223 gallons.

“Our goal maybe is not unrealistic, for one, and there are areas that are doing better than our goal,” Hafen said.

Lacy said there are 8,000 lots larger than one acre in the Pahrump Valley that could potentially have new wells.

The Nevada Division of Water Resources database lists more than 11,000 wells already drilled in the Pahrump groundwater basin. The Glorieta Geoscience report said they could potentially use 5,600 acre feet of water per year, approximately 40 percent of total annual water use currently in the valley.

The report said there are 5,905 lots between one and 2.5 acres that are currently platted, but vacant, that could install a domestic well and another 822 lots between 10 acres and less than 100 acres that could be subdivided to create additional residential lots with the potential for domestic well installation.

A lot would need to be at least one acre to drill a well and install a septic system and be in compliance with minimum separation requirements.

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