By Vernon Robison
Moapa Valley Progress
Representatives of the Riverview project presented a water demand study before the Moapa Valley Water District (MVWD) board of directors on Thursday that proposed that the district lower its water demand requirements for the master planned development in the Glendale/Moapa area.
Because the residential density of the project is set significantly higher than most Moapa Valley neighborhoods; and because Las Vegas valley-style water conservation measures are being imposed on the project; Riverview officials stated that the development would use less water than the usual MVWD standard for developers.
Riverview consultant, Bonnie Rinaldi, began the presentation by giving an overview of the project to board members. She explained that Riverview would encompass a total of 862 acres in two large sections: the mostly commercial Town Center located on either side of I-15 at Glendale, and the mainly residential North Village lying directly north of Town Center on either side of the Meadow Valley wash.
Rinaldi stated that the development is proposing to add 3,660 residential units. About 2,300 of those would be in single family homes with densities of 2-4 units per acre. The project would also include 848 medium density residential units including town homes and larger condominiums being built at 8-14 units per acre. Finally Riverview would have 512 apartment and condominium units that would exceed 14 units per acre.
In addition, about 240 acres of commercial development is being planned; most of it in the Town Center area at Glendale, Rinaldi said.
Rinaldi explained that the project had been through most of the County approval process. Riverview had received the approval of the Moapa Town Advisory Board back in 2009 and had completed its development agreement with the County.
“At this point, we’d like to develop a conceptual design for a water system,” Rinaldi said. “So we’d like to get a sense of what kind of water demands we are going to have so that we can move forward with designs.”
Rinaldi stated that the Riverview project was different than anything else in the region. The project’s residential density numbers are similar to areas in the City of Henderson, she said. But Riverview is located in a rural area served by a rural water purveyor. These complex elements caused the Riverview developers to hire a consulting company. MWH was hired to “…help us understand this issue of water demand”, Rinaldi said.
MWH had conducted a survey of existing practices throughout the region in the area compiling water demand standards from City of Henderson, Las Vegas Valley Water District, State of Nevada and the Nevada Division of Water Resources and comparing them to those of the MVWD.
The MVWD standard requires a developer to supply 1 acre foot per year (afy) for every residential unit. An acre foot of water is equal to 325,853 gallons. Under that standard, Riverview would be required to dedicate 3,660 afy to service the development plus an additional ten percent to be held in reserve. The developer currently owns 4,300 afy which can be dedicated to serve the development, Rinaldi said.
Compared to other, more urban, water purveyors in the region, the MVWD number is high. According to the MWH study, the Las Vegas Valley Water District only requires .84 afy per residential unit. And the City of Henderson requires only .75 afy/unit.
The MWH study takes into account the high density of Riverview. It also factors in the various water saving measures that the development will be under including turf restrictions, water efficient fixtures and desert landscaping.
The study concludes that the Riverview project water usage will be more in line with an urban standard. Thus it recommends using the Las Vegas Valley Water District’s .84 afy water demand standard for Riverview.
In the commercial area, the study recommended sticking with the MVWD standard of 1 afy/unit, which was significantly lower than its Las Vegas counterparts.
All of this would reduce the water requirement for Riverview from over 3600 afy to only 3,058 afy, states the study.
The MWH study then uses these water requirements to calculate the capacity needed in engineering a water distribution system to sufficiently serve the large development.
The study also recommends that measures be put into place to monitor water uses in the early phases of the project’s construction. A monitoring plan would keep an eye on how much water was actually being used by the project and allow for adjustments to be made in the requirements as the project continued forward.
“Who will carry out this monitoring plan?” asked MVWD board member Randy Tobler. “Who will be actually tracking the usage? And what happens when the actual usage is higher than what you are projecting?”
Rinaldi stated that the development is planned to be built in phases beginning with the Town Center area. This area is planned as predominantly commercial but also contains about 800 residential units. It would be built out in small sections over more than a decade, Rinaldi said. This would allow time for monitoring.
“We would monitor use in the first phases and if we are not living up to the standards then we would go to a higher standard for subsequent phases to make up for it,” Rinaldi said.
“But what if someone moves in later down the line and decides they want to put in grass or new higher use water fixtures?” Tobler asked. “I don’t think that the district want to get into the business of policing all of this. Who is going to make sure that the standards are kept into the future?”
Rinaldi indicated that a Homeowner’s Association would be established to see that the standards were kept.
“But once you have built the distribution system and it is in the ground, how would we adjust that system from a lower rate if the actual usage proves to be much higher?” asked Tobler.
Riverview water consultant Van Robinson who was in attendance at the meeting via a conferenced telephone line stated that this shouldn’t be a problem.
“If the distribution system is sized for certain demands of .85 afy but the demand turns out to be 1 afy you’ve got to keep in mind that the system is still designed to handle fireflows,” he said. “So there is a lot of buffer already built into the system.”
“That doesn’t really work,” said MVWD Interim General Manager Joe Davis. “No matter what, if your daily maximum goes up it will put a greater demand on the whole system.”
Leaving concerns about the system capacity aside, Board members expressed reservations about increasing the standards.
“I have a problem with reducing to .84 afy,” said MVWD Board member Scott Carson. “We can’t just say to your development, ‘It’s okay for you to do that but everyone else still has to stick with 1 afy’. What you are really asking is for us to change our standards.”
“What I think we ultimately need to recognize here is that all single family residences are not the same,” Rinaldi said. “We would be bringing 3600 units of new development that are vastly different than your existing customer base with much lower water use.”
“All this discussion seems centered around ways that the district can twist around to get to a .84 allocation,” said MVWD Board member Lindsey Dalley. “What I don’t understand is why do you need to drop to .84 afy if you clearly have enough water to cover it under the existing standards.”
Rinaldi explained that the county’s development standards were requiring Riverview to comply with strict water conservation measures similar to in the Las Vegas valley. “So first of all, with all that in place, we want to account for what water we will actually be using,” Rinaldi said.
Furthermore, if the actual water use at Riverview proves to be less than the MVWD standard a smaller distribution pipeline would be required to serve the development, saving significant funding in construction costs, Rinaldi said.
Finally, Rinaldi stated that the owners of the water component of Riverview have an understandable interest in maximizing their investment.
“I don’t want it to seem like I am anti-growth or development or anything,” Dalley said. “But I feel like we’re being put into a corner because Riverview wants to move forward this way. I’m not sure I see a compelling reason of why we should compromise on this.”
“To accomodate a significant development in the district boundaries within a common set of standards,” said Van Robinson.
“And if the numbers prove out it would be a way to stretch your resources further,” Rinaldi added.
MVWD Board member Jon Blackwell asked if the Riverview water allocation was coming from shares at a source up the Meadow Valley Wash at Rox. Rinaldi confirmed that this was the case.
“The big expense there is getting it all the way down here,” Rinaldi said.
She explained that in the earliest phases of the project, the Town Center area planned to hook directly into the MVWD system and simply purchase water from the district. Later, the developer would bring in the Rox water.
Davis stated that if the developer was bringing the Rox water to the table it would have to be up to treatment standards. “There would be tons of hurdles to get over on that,” he said.
“That’s true,” said Rinaldi. “But before we can begin to work with you on the design for a system, we would need to have these [water requirement] numbers set so we know what we are dealing with.”
Rinaldi acknowledged that her presentation was not an action item on the current agenda. “I guess we’d just like to know your feelings about all of this and get an idea what the next steps ought to be,” she said.
“The Rox water can be treated,” concluded MVTAB Board Chairman Ken Staton. “It can be brought up to standard and transported to our system. That can all be worked out. But I have to admit that I’m reluctant to change the standard from 1 afy to .84. That is going to be a sticking point for me.”