May 17, 2016 – One doesn’t have to travel far in Mesquite to find a splendidly manicured, green-as-green-can-be golf course.
Of the top six attractions in Mesquite on TripAdvisor, in fact, five are golf courses.
But some golf officials are concerned that the Virgin Valley Water District could be poised to do damage to one of the city’s primary drivers for tourism by increasing water rates to the point that some courses might not be able to stay in business.
Wolf Creek Golf Club is regarded as one of the premierBuy Photo
Wolf Creek Golf Club is regarded as one of the premier courses in Nevada. (Photo: Sarah Gambles/Desert Valley Times)
Currently, Conestoga Golf Club, Wolf Creek Golf Club and The Palms Golf Club are required to pay $250 per share for river water, leased from the water district. The VVWD, though, has discussed bumping up the price per share, possibly to as much as $1,250 per share.
The $1,250 number stems from what the district could be charging the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) for the same water, said board member Richard Bowler. That rate, he said, would also enable the VVWD to charge homeowners less per share.
‘They’re trying to associate costs of what they can get in Vegas and get them to pay the same in Mesquite, which is ridiculous,’ said Wolf Creek General Manager Darren Stanek. “Mesquite is one thing and Vegas is a totally different one. Those shares weren’t intended for Vegas.’
Any change to the pricing structure, however, is years away. Until 2019, VVWD is contractually obligated to keep the rates the same, at $250 per share.
“I don’t understand why they’re having that discussion in 2016 when it’s moot until 2019,’ said Bowler. “But they get pretty sensitive about it.’
In addition, Bowler said that, according to meter readings, the three golf courses aren’t currently using all the water being leased to them.
“We’re talking somewhere around 60 or 70 shares,’ Bowler said. “That’s $150,000 to the district that’s running down the ditch. We can’t do anything about it because the water’s leased. Nobody’s talking about it.’
The river water is viewed as a last resort use for the courses. The current contracts, according to Stanek and Bowler, state that the golf courses need to use any other available water before using the river water, which is leased by VVWD. The effluent water, which is recycled water, is leased by the City of Mesquite for 24 cents per 1,000 gallons and is used by the other two golf courses year-round, said Public Works Director Bill Tanner.
The city has enough water to sustain all the courses in the winter months but not enough for the summer, said Tanner. Will there be enough effluent water to sustain the courses year-round before 2019? That answer is still up in the air.
“It’s going to increase, but it’s not increasing at the rate we anticipated in the early 2000s,’ Tanner said. “There’s just a lot of fixtures being mandated by building codes. We have a lot of retirement community with one and two people in a home, so the actual is less than what the estimated is.’
The water that the three courses lease right now from VVWD is river water, which is sandy, includes shells and wears down the pumps and screens. But it does the job of maintaining the fairways and greens.
“I understand it’s a contentious and heated issue,’ said Bowler. “The golf courses are vital to our community. But are they getting a sweetheart deal? Yeah, they are. Why are the rate-payers subsidizing them?’
A substantial rate increase, said Stanek, could be devastating to a golf industry that he said is already facing challenges.
“Golf is not really healthy right now,’ Stanek said. “They make it sound like all we can do is raise rates. There’s other options out there for golfers. They don’t have to come to Mesquite. They can stay in Vegas. If I price myself out, they won’t come.’
Raising prices for the water could promote conservation, but there’s only so much a golf course can do to drop water usage because they have to maintain their product. And there’s just one way to do that: Regular watering.
“We’re pleased to be in Mesquite and to be a vital part of the economy,’ Stanek said. “It’s important to us that Mesquite does well, as well as all seven golf courses. People come here for the golf, and if you keep losing them, then it doesn’t become a destination anymore.’
Brian Wursten, director of golf at Falcon Ridge Golf Course, which would not be affected by any pricing change, believes rates need to go up for the water but believes it should land in the neighborhood of $550 per share. His concern about a high rate hike for the other courses is area property values.
“If one of these courses go under, all the property values in the area are gone,’ said Wursten, who is one of seven candidates seeking election to the Mesquite City Council. “If you look around the city, all the properties are built around that area. That’s what’s kept the property values up.’
And if those property values go down, he contended, so will the tax base.
“There’s a lot of people in the city who don’t golf,’ said Wursten. “But the growth has happened around the golf courses.’
Even though the vote is years away, both golf businesses and the VVWD have a lot to think about.
“People need to have all the facts on the table,’ Bowler said. “If we were to lease those shares to SNWA, the amount of money we would have made is around $10 million. People would like to know we’re subsidizing golf courses when we could be saving them money by getting it from SNWA.’