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Valley aquifer could reach “critical management” levels by 2055

After many months of painstaking research and calculations, a date has been placed on when the Pahrump Valley’s sole-source aquifer could reach critical management, with officials pegging the timeline at somewhere between the year 2055 and 2060. However, it was emphasized that this is an estimation and with so many variables at play, there is a possibility it could change.

The report, presented at the Nye County Water District Governing Board’s Feb. 13 meeting, came at the request of board member Bruce Holden, who tasked Nye County Water District General Manager Dann Weeks with finding this number.

“I’ve been working on this problem since I got here and essentially, what Mr. Holden and I have been trying to calculate is, the point at which our wet water supply will be stressed and brought into critical management,” Weeks stated that morning.

He was referencing the point at which water use exceeds the basin’s annual recharge rate, estimated by the Nevada State Engineer’s Office at 20,000 acre-feet per year.

Once this occurs, the state engineer can declare critical management in Pahrump’s Basin #162 and institute water-use curtailment measures.

“I don’t have a crystal ball but I have done a tremendous amount of legwork… After full consideration, and I have been hesitant to state this number but, all indicators show that our wet water supply will become critical somewhere between 2055 and 2060,” Weeks announced.

He explained that he had arrived at this number following in-depth analysis of many factors that could impact the projection. These included the existing Basin #162 Groundwater Management Plan, population growth and other statistics from the state demographer’s office, existing development agreements filed with Nye County and every building permit pulled in the valley over the past five years.

“There are a lot of varying, moving parts and pieces in this puzzle,” water board member Ed Goedhart remarked. “We have to kind of keep re-triangulating as we go down this path and I’m sure we’ll have changes based on the differences of the day.”

“It’s a very complicated equation and it’s very difficult to put in a single line,” Weeks acknowledged. “But there is converging evidence, converging data, that says the point when our wet water becomes stressed, where our water resources will become maxed, is right around 2055-2060.”

Weeks said he felt it would be of benefit to have the data and calculations used to derive this number worked into the Basin #162 Groundwater Management Plan, stating, “I believe only this body has the power to make that determination… and I believe the proper method to do that is to enshrine it in the groundwater management plan.”

The water board’s Feb. 13 agenda included an item to discuss updating that management plan, which was last overhauled in 2018. Holden made the motion to initiate the update, which will be done in-house. That motion passed 5-0 with board chair Helene Williams absent.

For more information or to view the current iteration of the Basin #162 Groundwater Management Plan visit NyeCountyWaterDistrict.net

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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