By Vernon Robison
Moapa Valley Progress
On cold mornings, steam rises from a heavy stream of 80 degree water as it flows from a culvert down over the rocky bank and into the Bowman Reservoir. Unlike the water that has filled the reservoir every winter for more than seventy years, this water doesn’t come from the Muddy River. Rather, it comes from a deep underground aquifer at Coyote Springs, about seven miles northeast of Moapa.
The culmination of years of negotiations, work and planning, the Coyote Springs test pump project began moving water on Monday, November 15. According to Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) officials, over 3,800 gallons per minute are currently being pumped from the MX-5 well at Coyote Springs and is being conveyed through the Moapa Valley to eventually be emptied into Lake Mead.
The test pump had its beginnings back in 2002. At that time, water rights applications in the Coyote Springs acquifer had been filed with the Nevada State Engineer totalling 135,000 acre feet per year (afy).
One acre foot of water is approximately 324,851 gallons or roughly enough to supply one Moapa Valley household for a year.
At that time, concerns were voiced that pumping so much water from the Coyote Springs aquifer would have an adverse affect on natural flows at Warm Springs which are the source of the Muddy River and supply the habitat for the endangered Moapa dace.
Consequently, the State Engineer issued Order 1169 which held all Coyote Springs groundwater applications in abeyance until a test pump could be conducted.
“According to the order at least 50% of the permitted water rights in Coyote Springs must be pumped each year,” said SNWA spokesman Bronson Mack. “That adds up to approximately 8,050 afy.”
Of course, the big question when being required to remove that much water from its point of origin is: What do you do with it?
Over the past few years, the SNWA has built a complex and costly transmission system to address that question. Beginning at the MX-5 well site, the water is treated and brought to culinary water standards. Then it flows over five miles through a new pipeline along State Highway 68 ending up in the MVWD tank at Moapa, mixing with the MVWD culinary water supply. From there the water continues on through the MVWD system. At Bowman Reservoir, the water goes through a dechlorination facility to return it to a natural state before being introduced back into the Muddy River system. It is then released into Bowman Reservoir and stored there. Eventually it will flow through the Muddy Valley Irrigation Company system if pipes and ditches and be released into the Muddy River channel at the Gubler Bridge, continuing on from there into Lake Mead where SNWA will receive credit for it entering the Colorado River system.
The total cost of the project is over $38 million.
An extensive monitoring system has been put in place to monitor any affect that the test pump may have on surrounding water sources. This monitoring involves input from various interested parties including SNWA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, MVWD, Muddy Valley Irrigation Company, Coyote Springs Investments and the Moapa Band of Paiutes.
“There is careful water level monitoring going on now throughout the entire region,” Mack said. “These include monitor wells, stream gauges and monitoring of current production wells; altogether over 25 different locations.”
The Moapa Valley Water District has electronic monitoring systems constantly measuring the flow at local water sources.
“Our systems check the water levels every 15 minutes,” said MVWD General Manager Brad Huza. “If there is any change we will be alerted to it right away.”
Mack stated that it was early yet, but there had been no discernible change registered in water levels or spring flows.
“But if any changes do register, there are a whole system of triggers associated with the test pump,” he said. “The triggers dictate that certain actions must be taken depending on the circumstances. It might mean that we reduce or redistribute the amount of pumping that we do. Or in certain circumstances we might even have to cease pumping.”
MVWD has hired a crew of four people dedicated to monitoring the system from Coyote Springs to Bowman Reservoir.
“Since the test pump started, our water production division has basically been on seven days a week,” said Huza. “We’ll keep up that schedule until we know that everything is running just fine.”
The cost of the crew; their salaries, equipment, fuel and all other expenses associated with the two year test pump project; are all being funded by the SNWA.
“We have an annual budget for all of these costs that comes from SNWA,” Huza said. “There is no impact whatsoever to the Moapa Valley Water District.”
The added load on the MVWD supply lines is also not expected to be a problem. At maximum capacity the lines can convey about 6,800 gallons a minute, Huza said. That is more than enough to handle both the MVWD demand and the test pump water, he said.
“Most of the year we have plenty of capacity to handle the added flow,” Huza said. “At our peak summer months we have been moving about 3,500 gallons per minute so that will take us right against the edge. But the project has upgraded our booster station above the Narrows and that will more than take care of us through the summer time peak.”