Council Instructs Staff and SNWA to Study Two Wastewater Treatment Options

Wastewater Recap Boulder City, NevadaLast night in a unanimous decision, the City Council moved to have the SNWA (Southern Nevada Water Authority), perform a formal feasibility study on two options for treating Boulder City’s wastewater. They also instructed City Staff to plan one or several community workshops to help better educate the public on the options before them and receive citizen feedback. The Council requested that the study be done on options two and three of the presentation.

The representative from the SNWA, Ms. Doa Ross, reviewed in detail the presentation and options provided, and we always appreciate when they share information directly, as it seems that no matter how well you read through the materials, there is always more to learn. You can tour the presentation and watch the video HERE, time mark 1:35 – 3:27 with an intermission)

It should be shared that several years ago, during the previous City Council’s term, the SNWA contacted Boulder City about this potential project, stating they would be willing to pay an estimated $26 million to help recycle or treat Boulder City’s wastewater. There was opposition to the project then, and the Council never discussed the matter.

The SNWA’s goal in approaching us was, and is, to reduce the consumptive use of Boulder City. Something that Councilman Walton, along with the SNWA, clarified.

In our article last week HERE, we had initially shared that four options had been shown to the UAC (Utilities Advisory Committee) but learned from this presentation that this was not entirely correct. We will explain this later.

Option one is to have Henderson perform the wastewater treatment in their system. SNWA will pay for the costs of building that pipeline and infrastructure, but there are also unknown costs, such as the connection fees to the City of Henderson and what fees they may charge Boulder City ongoing.

One thing revealed in that discussion is that while Henderson can certainly expand their operations to accommodate this – they are not, as of today, able to handle the additional capacity. This could mean additional time and costs associated with this path. Option one, therefore, is discarded.

Option two allows for the repurposing of our wastewater via what is known as the Black Mountain reservoir, which can be treated and combined with potable (drinking) water and handle if not all, much of our watering needs for our key parks and golf courses. It’s a popular option that many in the community like.

The downsides are the unknown long-term expenses and the fact that it is all then on Boulder City’s back. Something new we learned is that this would not be a 1 : 1 water credit exchange. Ms. Ross explained that from other golf courses following this method, the irrigation amounts of water are higher when using wastewater because it is not as pure as treated potable water and doesn’t work its way into the soil as well. So, while we will gain water credits, they will not be at the full value compared to the other options. Also at issue is the ongoing city employee expertise needed for this method, as we will run our own higher-tech wastewater treatment system.

Option three was the most liked by all five council members and recommended as an option by the UAC. It is nice that the SNWA gives the Boulder City Staff full credit for the idea, as this one is apparently all ‘homegrown’ by them. In this option, the SNWA will pay to upgrade the existing water treatment facility and reline 3.5 miles of existing pipeline already laid from the treatment area toward Hoover Dam.

That water would then go into a well, and through nature’s own natural groundwater filtering, the water empties into the area above Hoover Dam and into the Colorado River system.

This is the most popular option cited by all on the council for the number of boxes it checks – we get full water credit, there are fewer risks in building it, we keep it local without Henderson’s involvement, and we are also actively contributing back into the water supply that feeds the Hoover Dam’s hydroelectric output. Something we are highly dependent upon and benefit from heavily. This is the other option that will now receive an in-depth study.

Option four – this is the one that we, and others it appears, didn’t fully understand. It’s not another ‘choice’ for what to do. What it is, is a funding opportunity should we choose options one or three.

You know that annexed land out in the Eldorado Valley? The one we told you about HERE where there will be upcoming commercial development? The City of Henderson is on the hook, so to speak, with the SNWA to put that wastewater back into the system. It is 100% their responsibility to make that happen.

So, for either option one, or three, we can negotiate a contract with those developers to handle their wastewater as part of our system and charge them for it. We cannot control that they can build out there, so we say, why not get something from it? Option four (or 3-a, or 3-b, or whatever you want to call it) is really an opportunity to help our incoming neighbors with a need they contractually must fulfill, and in the process, helps our community pay for either of these options.

This may lean some of our officials toward such an option as number three, but we will see. A last-minute idea which was mentioned by the Mayor and a  few citizens was the Boulder City Farms idea, which option number two, may help keep relevant in future discussions.

The study of options two and three will begin shortly, and experts tell us that these can’t be rushed, so plan for several (or maybe six) months before we hear back. As to any community workshops to be held by the City, you know we’ll keep you posted!

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