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Letter from Frank Strong (Los Angeles) to G. F. Ashby, November 7, 1944




Creator: Strong, Frank




Meeting on water in Las Vegas. Discussion included the decline in water pressure throughout the valley, watershed recharge, BMI Water, a possible water district, well drilling, and more.

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Box 12 Folder W23-1-B Water Conservation Campaign 1942-1944


hln000762. Union Pacific Railroad Collection, 1828-1995. MS-00397. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


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Los Angeles - November 7, 1944 Mr. G. F. Ashby: (CC - Mr. W. H. Guild Mr. W. R. Bracken Mr. E. E. Bennett Mr. R. B. Denton ) My letter of October 23rd advised of an invitation extended to officers of the LVLAV and RR Cos. to meet with Directors of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce on November 3rd to discuss matters per-taining to the local water situation. The meeting was attended on our part by Messrs. Bracken, McNamee and Folger of Las Vegas and Messrs. Guild, Bennett, Denton and myself from Los Angeles; representing the State were State Engin-eer A. M. Smith and hia Assistant, Hugh Shamberger, and the commun-ity was represented by about 75, including the Board of Directors of the Chamber, members of the City Council and the County Commission, and a number of large property owners in the Valley. The highlights of the discussion were: 1. It is definitely established there is a decline in hydroatatic pressures throughout the Valley, Indicating deple-tion of the underground supply faster than the rate of recharge. 2. The recharge originates principally from snowfall in the mountains surroundlng Las Vegas Valley. Actual survey of this watershed has not been made, nor have records been kept as to precipitation occurring thereon, nor have any measurements been made to indicate the approximate percent of such precipita-tion that finds its way into the underground reservoir versus the runoff which becomes a total loss for domestic or agricul-tural use. State Engineer advised that such survey is now under way by State authorities with the assistance of a geologist and engineer furnished by the United States Reclamation Bureau, and that in a matter of a year or two some fairly dependable figures will be available. Mr. Smith advised that since he took office nine years ago his Department has kept a fairly accurate record of hydro-atatic pressures and weirings of producing wells in the Las Vegas Artesian Belt, and he stated such records clearly indicate that the underground reservoir is being depleted faster than recharge occurs. He stated that there are now about 450 producing wells in the Valley, and that in view of the depletion now occurring, careful consideration must be given by his office to applications for further drilling permits. He brought out that the under-ground waters in Nevada are the property of the State, and under the law the State Engineer is the custodian thereof, and that the (1) (2) allocation of such waters by issuance of drilling permits must be predicated upon his judgment as to availability in the par-ticular aquifer and portion thereof without affecting production of another producing well or other producing wells tapping the same aquifer, and with regard as to the character of beneficial use, domestic requirement being the highest character of such use. Mr. Smith sounded the warning that with the known gradual depletion of existing water resources, the community could not look to any success in influencing location of indus-tries which would be dependent upon this source for water re-quired in their operations, and for the Same reason the commun-ity would experience difficulty in encouraging investment in projects of any character that would tend toward increasing the population and the development of the Valley. He gave as the firm opinion of his Department that the community should take Immediate steps to correct this unstable situation by the develop-ment of a standby source of water supply, and offered the services of his office in developing such a source. Pending the consumma-tion of such effort, he urged the utmost cooperation of every water user in conserving the present underground supply, thereby deferring the occurrence of acute shortage. 3. As to the standby supply, the talk generally assumed the possibility of acquisition of the DPC facilities now serving Basic Magnesium. Mr. Frank Case, of Anaconda, however, stated that Basic is now using practically all of the water produced, and while he understood that the remaining magnesium producing units were to be shut down shortly, he had no advice as to intent to discontinue production of chlorlne and caustic soda. 4. One of the Chamber of Commerce Directors made the statement that some years ago he, in conjunction with an engineer of the Reclamation Department, made a study of the recharge and runoff in the Charleston Mountains, and his recol-lection was that it was estimated water of a volume represent-ing 22,000,000 gallons per day which is now lost through runoff might be conserved by storage. The State Engineer was asked as to whether any study had been made of the possibility of conserving that runoff. Mr. Smith advised that no such study had been made, but would be included in the study now in progress. 5. It was brought out that a water conservation statute of 1939 provided for the formation of water conservation dist-ricts, and that under this law such a district was formed in the Las Vegas Artesian Belt. The functions of such a district, he advised, were to cooperate with the State Engineer in matters pertaining to production and use of underground waters, looking to the best interests of the district as a whole. While duly organized under the statute, the Las Vegas Artesian Belt District had not functioned. Mr. Smith urged its reorganization and active (3) participation in such matters. He further suggested, as a con-servation measure, effort to have the next Legislature enact a measure that will permit installation of meters for public utility service, and estimated that through the use of meters in Las Vegas city a minimum of 2,000,000 gallons of water per day would be conserved. He stated that efforts of his office in bringing about the repair of leaking wells and valves and curtailment of other wasteful practices had, during his regime, brought about an estimated saving of approximately 2,000,000 gallons per day outside of city limits, and that these corrective measures were still being carried on. He indicated, however, that he must have the support and full cooperation of the community in this effort. 6. After some questions directed to both the State Engineer and the Water Co. as to assumption of cost of provid-ing additional facilities, Mr. Smith read a tabulated list of water consumption in the Valley during August of this year, which indicated the total amount of water furnished by the Las Vegas Land and Water Co. under its function as a public utility averaged a little under 11,000,000 gallons per day, whereas the known consumption throughout the Valley for the same month averaged something in excess of 25,000,000 gallons per day, and he pointed out that the problem was not one of the Water Co. alone, but rather of the district as a whole. In connection with this statement, we were asked by the President of the Chamber of Commerce If the Railroad Co. would consider relin-quishing its holdings to a private concern prepared to develop a standby source, or to the municipality, and I advised that while that was a matter for executive determination it was my opinion that such proposal would be seriously considered under acceptable conditions. 7. In response to a question as to what action he pro-posed to take on the protest against the drilling of a particular well, which protest brought about this meeting, Mr. Smith stated that the well in question was rather close to one of the produc-ing wells of the Las Vegas Land and Water Co., and under his present belief would produce from the same aquifer. He stated that he proposed to give the matter careful study before render-ing a decision, and if in his opinion production from the pro-posed well would reduce production from the Water Co.'s well, the water from which he stated is being used for the highest beneficial purpose, he would be obliged to refuse the permit. Questioned by the applicant for this permit as to when such decision would be reached, Mr. Smith advised that his study might require a year's time. 3. The above, I think, brings out the highlights of the meeting. There was a great deal of discussion, all of a friendly nature, and at the conclusion of a 2& 1/2-hour meeting (4) the President of the Chamber of Commerce advised that he would appoint a small committee to cooperate with the State Engineer in strict conservation measures and to investigate, and after study of the entire situation, recommend steps to be taken to bring about a standby supply. As a matter of information, we secured from Mr. Case data upon the cost and capacity of the B.M.I. water facilities. It devel-ops that the cost of pumping equipment, reservoir, pipe line and distribution system was $5,167,112, With the lake at elevation 1229, which is the elevation at which storage waters waste over the spillways, the pumps have a capacity of approximately 44,000,000 gallons per day. At the lowest level which Bureau of Reclamation engineers figure might occur after a protracted drought, or elevation 1050, the capacity would be 31,000,000 gallons per day. The storage reservoirs have a capacity of 31,000,000 gallons. I am attaching hereto a copy of the paper which I read before the meeting. Frank Strong