Rainbow Bend find temporary solution for water woes

VIRGINIA CITY - Drought and an overstressed water system have cost the tiny community of Rainbow Bend much of its landscaping, but relief could come in about 10 days.

Water supplies are adequate for household use and emergency services but lawns and trees are dying as a result of water use restrictions.

Truckee Canyon Properties is building a truck terminal nearby and an extra 40 to 50 gallons per minute will be piped overland from their well.

It's a temporary solution that will work until winter's freezing temperatures shut the system down.

It's a costly temporary solution that will see the community through this crisis. The 90-day supply could cost as much as $25,000 according to Patrick Shannon, chairman of the Canyon General Improvement District, the group that brings water, sewer, and cable services to the area.

Infrastructure costs will be paid for with money from grants and water costs will most likely be paid by a reserve held by the General Improvement District. That reserve fund could fall short, in which case residents will be asked to pay the balance, according to Shannon.

But it will be money well spent, according to Storey County commissioner Bob Kershaw.

"Who will pay for this drought damage," he said. "The $25,000 to $30,000 needed to buy the water will be cheaper than replacing landscaping."

Homeowners in Rainbow Bend commonly use an average of 900 gallons per day during the summer and 250 gallons per day in winter.

Supplies have been tight in past summers, but this year damage to the pump system and a fading aquifer have increased Rainbow Bend's problems.

"The pump is running at two-thirds capacity and the aquifer isn't refilling as rapidly as hoped," said Storey County Commissioner Bob Kershaw.

Repairs on the pump can't begin until next winter after the demand has decreased and the pump can be shut down for five days according to Shannon.

Rainbow Bend has had a series of setbacks since its inception. Manganese was discovered in one the district's two wells and officials have spent years searching for a second well, but five attempts turned up dry according to Shannon.

Truckee Canyon Properties is offering a permanent solution, providing water from its proven, 250 gallon-per-minute well in the Mustang area. The infrastructure for this new source should be completed and working this winter, in plenty of time for next summer's crunch.

County commissioner Greg "Bum" Hess said he was pleased with the temporary solution, but supported a moratorium on growth in the area.

"I hope the General Improvement District will step up to the plate and not issue any additional "will serves" until a permanent solution is found," he said.

A "will serve" is a promise from the district to a developer or homeowner to provide water and sewer services.

There are 23 homes under construction in the area and 19 of those have received these guarantees.

"We can't force a moratorium unless there is no other governing body," said County Commissioner Chuck Haynes. "Only the GID has the power to control that growth."

Shannon said no new building permits will be issued until the crisis has passed.


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