Tesla battery factory near Reno will gulp water

RENO — The massive Tesla battery factory being built in Northern Nevada will be a thirsty resident, with some preliminary estimates saying it will require the equivalent of nearly half of the groundwater rights allocated to its Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center neighborhood.

The project, the cherry atop Gov. Brian Sandoval’s economic development agenda to date, promises high-paying jobs and a diversification from a long-sagging gambling economy to one powered by high-tech manufacturing and technology.

But the $5 billion, 5 million-square-foot facility going up just down the road from Reno-Sparks in Storey County exemplifies the challenges of balancing economic growth with the availability of natural resources needed to sustain it.

State and local economic development officials say through smart use of technology and recycling the most precious resource — water — the region is up to the task.

Skeptics, while not opposed to the huge project per se, question whether there’s as much water as projected in the basin along the Truckee River to meet demands without harming the river and downstream users.

After months of negotiations and tense competition among five states, Tesla Motors, headed by billionaire Elon Musk, chose Northern Nevada as the site of the huge battery factory, a joint project with Panasonic Corp. of Japan. The plant, expected to employ upward of 6,000, will make lithium-ion batteries on a large scale, something Tesla says is needed to reduce the cost of its electric cars and make them more affordable and attractive to the auto-buying public.

Nevada awarded $1.3 billion in tax incentives to lure Tesla to the Silver State.

WATER: KEY TALKING POINT

Tesla has not said how much water the huge plant will require, saying through a spokes­woman that it is “too early to say.” But Steve Hill, director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and Nevada’s point man on the Tesla deal, concedes water availability was an integral factor during talks.

“Water was a pretty significant part of the conversation,” Hill said. “They certainly wanted to make sure that water was not going to be a problem for them.”

The 165-square-mile Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center, the largest in North America, offers a half-acre foot of water for every acre a tenant develops, Hill said. Tesla, which is developing 1,000 acres, received 500 acre-feet of water as part of that provision.

“That’s a starting point,” Hill said. “A groundwater allocation that Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center has already.”

But it’s not nearly enough for operations.

“The amount has not absolutely been determined, but it will probably be in the 2,000 to 2,500 acre-foot range by the time the facility reaches maturity. They’re going to need plus or minus another 2,000 acre-feet in order to operate,” Hill said, adding that the volume has been reduced as project engineers reconfigure design to maximize efficiency.

“Tesla certainly is very focused on the environment in general,” Hill said. “So they have worked really hard to bring down the amount of water that they would need, both from a business practice standpoint and in keeping in line with the values of the company.”

For comparison, the MGM Grand on the Strip used 397 million gallons of water, or 1,218 acre-feet in 2013, according to the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

An acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover an acre of land 12 inches deep, or about 326,000 gallons. One acre-foot of water is enough to supply two average Las Vegas Valley households for a little more than one year.

The industrial center has 5,295 acre-feet of groundwater rights in the basin, according to the state engineer’s office. It also has rights to 4,480 acre-feet of recycled sewer water on the property and 220 acre-feet of surface rights from the Truckee River.

WATER CONCERNS DISMISSED

Lance Gilman, a Storey County commissioner and principal in the industrial center, which has about 170 tenants, dismissed water concerns. He said the industrial park has ample supplies, its own treatment plant and a sophisticated recycling system that greatly reduces demand for groundwater.

“The treated water … we pipe that up to a reservoir that’s 100 acres in size,” Gilman said. “We can hold 1,000 acre-feet of water in storage within that lake. We recycle everything we use out there.”

Well records show the industrial park pumped 900 acre-feet of water in 2012, and 500 acre-feet the following year, the state engineer’s office said. No water was pumped from the Truckee River.

Gilman said a report by the U.S. Geological Survey showed the location sits atop an underground aquifer containing tens of thousands of acre-feet of water, suggesting more groundwater could be had if necessary.

But some argue that the mere presence of water does not alone make that water ripe for siphoning. The important thing, they say, isn’t the size of the aquifer but perennial yield, defined as the maximum amount of groundwater that can be taken each year over the long term for beneficial use without depleting the reservoir.

“One would question whether that basin can actually safely provide what they think they can,” said Tom Myers, a hydro­logist and consultant for Great Basin Water Network.

He also discounted Gilman’s assertion that more groundwater was there for the taking.

“We have to allow groundwater mining to get to that, and that is something that Nevada, to its credit, does not allow,” Myers said.

PERENNIAL YIELD QUESTION

Determining perennial yield is a complicated calculation, often based on best-guess estimates of annual recharge through precipitation and natural discharge of groundwater that makes its way into streams, springs and plants.

That point was acknowledged by Nevada’s state water engineer, Jason King, in a 2013 ruling that involved 18 water right applications in the watershed around the industrial site known as the Tracy Segment Hydrographic Basin. King noted that estimates from experts of mean recharge from precipitation varied widely, from 2,000 to 22,000 acre-feet annually. He pronounced the basin’s perennial yield from groundwater recharge at 11,500 acre-feet annually.

Myers remains skeptical, saying the state engineer’s amount of available water “may be overestimated because it doesn’t account for groundwater that is supposed to end up in the Truckee River.”

Applications addressed in King’s ruling requested a combined allocation of 15,420 acre-feet annually.

Of those, 12,000 acre-feet were sought by the industrial center but only 2,740 acre-feet were approved. In denying three other requests for a combined 3,200 acre-feet, King concluded that given existing groundwater rights of about 8,500 acre-feet, “there is insufficient water to satisfy these applications.”

His ruling also referenced testimony during applications hearings that water demand at Tahoe-Reno Industrial Park at build-out could range from 11,900 acre-feet to 45,000 acre-feet, depending on the types of companies that move there.

Gilman said the center will work with its current allocation of water.

“And then,” Gilman said, “as more science is developed, and we’re working on it constantly, there’ll be more water identified.”

“There’s not a water shortage,” he reiterated, adding the center pumped millions of gallons a day to handle Tesla’s grading project “and didn’t stress the system at all.”

“As we need more water, we’ll reach out,” he said.

OTHER WATER SOURCES

But the industrial center is not interested in water from the Black Rock Desert, Gilman and Storey County Manager Pat Whitten said after an Idaho businessman with farming operations in Nevada’s Humboldt County filed two applications proposing to pump water from the desert 100 miles south to the industrial site.

The applications by Rodney St. Clair filed in October seek 14,000 acre-feet from the Double Hot Springs and Casey Hot Springs areas located on private land within the Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area.

Whitten said the county was not contacted beforehand about the proposal and the Storey County Commission voted unanimously to protest the applications. Gilman added it doesn’t make sense financially.

“The economics don’t pencil out,” Gilman said. “By the time you pump the water to get it to our market, it’s no longer attractive from a financial aspect.”

A more appealing alternative to bolster water for the industrial park is the Truckee Meadows Water Reclamation Facility, about 20 miles west in neighboring Washoe County.

The treatment plant is nearing capacity and struggling to meet environmental standards for nitrogen discharges into the Truckee River. The cost of building a pipeline to transfer treated effluent to the industrial park has been estimated at $35 million.

“What we plan to do is use that recycled water as the additional water for the Tesla manufacturing operation,” Hill said. “There’s more than enough excess water coming out of the treatment plant than Tesla would need.”

Such an arrangement, Hill said, provides water for Tesla, cleans up the river and helps the treatment facility in its discharge distribution efforts. He called it a “win-win” for everybody.

In the driest state in the nation, finding water for industrial use is a continuing challenge.

“It certainly comes up in a number of projects that we’re looking at,” Hill said. “So far we have not had a situation where a solution could not be found. And certainly companies are becoming more and more attuned to the fact that they need to be as efficient as they can with water.

“We have to make sure those projects fit for Nevada and Nevada fits for those projects.”

Local Videos
Property Brothers visit Michael’s in Las Vegas Valley
Twin brothers Jonathan and Drew Scott are the hosts of Property Brothers, the hit HGTV show where they help couples find fixer-uppers and transform them into dream homes. In 2018, the brothers collaborated with Michael's on their first custom framing program. Today they're releasing new frames into that collection that range from natural to bright looking. Jonathan and Drew discuss their brand and why frames was something they wanted to pursue. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
I-15 traffic jam
A semitrailer stopped in the middle of Interstate 15 near Charleston Boulevard has slowed traffic in central Las Vegas Wednesday morning, April 17, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rainy Tuesday
The Las Vegas Valley saw cooler temperatures and rain Tuesday afternoon. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Tiger Woods Bettor Collects
James Adducci bet $85k on Tiger Woods to win the Masters. He collected his $1.19M from William Hill sports bet in the SLS today. (Mat Luschek /Review-Journal)
Endangered frogs released at Springs Preserve
Dozens of endangered Relic Leopard Frogs were released at the Cotton Grove inside Springs Preserve in Las Vegas, Thursday, April 11, 2019
Vintage World War II aircraft arrive at Henderson Executive Airport
The Collings Foundation Wings of Freedom tour comes to Henderson Executive Airport with a B-17 Flying Fortress, B-24 Liberator, B-25 Mitchell, P-51 Mustang and a P-40 Warhawk. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Honoring Pearl Harbor veteran
Ed Hall, a Pearl Harbor veteran in Las Vegas, is honored with Quilt of Valor during an event in a Las Vegas. (Erik Verduzo/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UNLV Anthropology professors excavate Maya ruin site of Caracol, Belize for 36 years
The husband-and-wife team of UNLV anthropologists has spent several months a year at the remote site of Caracol in the jungles of Belize, excavating ruins and uncovering secrets from the region’s once-dominant civilization. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Things to remember when adopting a rabbit this Easter season
As Easter and spring time approach, some people may be tempted to adopt a rabbit for the holiday. But like adopting any animal, it is important to be responsible and know what a rabbit requires to be a happy, healthy pet. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Bike Giveaway in Las Vegas - Piero’s Italian Cuisine
Evan Glusman of Piero’s Italian Cuisine hosted a party in the restaurant’s parking lot to distribute over 150 bikes to local kids. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New Charleston/I-15 ramp configuration
The new Interstate 15/ Charleston Boulevard ramp configuration was unveiled Tuesday morning. (Mick Akers/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Northwest Vegas farm's abandoned pig problem
Someone abandoned a several hundred pound pig at Sharon Linsenbardt's farm. Her farm is a rescue for animals, but she doesn't have room or resources to take on another such creature, so she's asking the community for help. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Chalk Talk: Black Student Union
Students talk about the Black Student Union in the latest episode of Chalk Talk. (Angus Kelly and Amelia Pak-Harvey/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Individuals with Parkinson's participate in dance class
Pamela Lappen leads a dance class for individuals with Parkinson's Disease at the Nevada Ballet Theatre in Las Vegas, Thursday, March 28, 2019. Caroline Brehman/Review-Journal
Animal Foundation Preps Pups For Best In Show
The Las Vegas Animal Foundation is preparing its prime pups for their 16th annual Best in Show event, which takes place at the end of April. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Dog Yoga At Hydrant Club
The Hydrant Club in downtown Las Vegas, is a social club for dogs and their people. Recently the club started hosting dog yoga. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Butterflies At The Springs Preserve
The butterfly habitat is now open at the Springs Preserve. Learn about butterflies and take in the peaceful surroundings. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
The Bellagio Conservatory's spring display has a Japanese theme
The Bellagio's conservatory is hosting around 65,000 flowers, to form a Japanese theme this spring. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Bonnie Springs closes (Caroline Brehman/Kimber Laux)
Bonnie Springs Ranch near Las Vegas officially closed its gates Sunday, March 17, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Honoring a fallen North Las Vegas Police officer at his namesake school
The 20th Annual Raul P. Elizondo Honor Day celebrates the fallen North Las Vegas Police officer's legacy at his namesake school. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Windy day in Las Vegas Valley
The Review-Journal's camera on the under-construction Las Vegas Stadium the was buffered by high winds on Wednesday, March 14, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
March gloom falls on Las Vegas
After a rainy overnight, gloomy skies hover over Las Vegas Tuesday morning. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
John Katsilometes gets his head shaved at St. Baldrick's
Las Vegas Review-Journal man-about-town columnist John Katsilometes gets his head shaved by former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman during St. Baldrick's Foundation shave-a-thon on the Brooklyn Bridge at New York-New York in Las Vegas Friday, March 8, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
The Blue Angels take flight over Las Vegas Strip
The Blue Angels’ U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron flew their signature Delta formation over a part of the Las Vegas Strip, McCarran International Airport and east Las Vegas and were scheduled to fly over Hoover Dam. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Gross World Records
A group of about 20 children gathered around a TV at Sahara West Library on Feb. 27 for a history lesson on the most disgusting world records.
Graduation for Renewing HOPE program
The Renewing HOPE program graduation for homeless who spend nine months in Catholic Charities program. Graduates are preparing to enter the workforce. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Car crashes into Starbucks near Las Vegas Strip
Lt. William Matchko of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police gives details about a car crashing into a Starbucks at Sahara Avenue and Paradise Road, near the Las Vegas Strip, on Friday, March 1, 2019. (Jessica Terrones/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Car crashed into PT’s Gold
A 60-year-old man who police believe was impaired drove into a PT’s Gold at Silverado Ranch and Decatur boulevards Thursday night, Metropolitan Police Department Lt. William Matchko said. The driver was hospitalized and is expected to survive. A man inside the bar was hit by debris but drove himself to the hospital, Matchko said. (Katelyn Newberg/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Driver crashes vehicle into PT’s tavern in south Las Vegas (part 1)
A driver suspected of impairment crashed a vehicle into the wall of a PT’s Gold tavern, at 4880 W. Silverado Ranch Blvd., in Las Vegas on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. (Katelyn Newberg/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Driver crashes vehicle into PT’s tavern in south Las Vegas (pullout)
A driver suspected of impairment crashed a vehicle into the wall of a PT’s Gold tavern, at 4880 W. Silverado Ranch Blvd., in Las Vegas on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. (Katelyn Newberg/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
It is a rainy Valentine's Day in Las Vegas - Video
These scenes come from the Las Vegas Stadium LiveCam (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Business Videos
Boxabl official explains the building concept
Boxabl business development manager Galiano Tiramani shows off a room built by his company. (Blake Apgar/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Convention Center expansion taking shape
Renderings and actual footage show how the Las Vegas Convention Center is evolving.
Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz at Las Vegas convention
Former Starbucks CEO and potential presidential candidate Howard Schultz spoke at the Epicor Insights user conference at Mandalay Bay Convention Center Wednesday, April 17, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Drew Las Vegas to open in the second quarter of 2022
The 67-story Drew Las Vegas is slated to open in the second quarter of 2022 at the north end of the Las Vegas Strip. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NAB Day 1 (Time Lapse)
NAB kicked off at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Monday, April 8, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
National Association of Broadcasters Show shows 1mm thick 8K TV with 22.2 channel digital sound
Japan’s NHK Science & Technology Research Laboratories booth featured a 1mm thick 8K TV system used in conjunction with a 22.2 channel digital sound system at the National Association of Broadcasters Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Nevada shoppers react to Smith’s no longer accepting Visa credit cards
On March 1, Smith’s announced that it would no longer be accepting Visa credit cards at any of its 142 supermarkets, including the 45 in Nevada.
Massachusetts Gaming Commission asks how long Wynn executives knew about misconduct
Business reporter Rick Velotta gives an update on the adjudicatory hearing on the suitability of Wynn Resorts to retain its gaming license in Massachusetts.
Henderson app developer part of Startup in Residence
Henderson based developers of the app On Point Barricade are taking part in Startup in Residence, a North America program dedicated to pairing tech companies with governments. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Sam's Town employees and customers talk of their love for the iconic casino
Longtime Sam's Town employees and customers love each other and love their casino. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas apartments rents
Las Vegas’ apartment market has accelerated in recent years. Developers are packing the suburbs with projects, landlords are on a buying spree, and tenants have filled buildings.
William Boyd talks about the birth of Sam's Town
On the eve of the 40th anniversary of Sam's Town, William Boyd, executive chairman of Boyd Gaming and son of hotel namesake Sam Boyd, talks about how the casino became one of the first local properties in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
High Roller observation wheel turns five
The world’s tallest observation wheel celebrates it’s fifth year on Sunday, March 31, 2019. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Escape Room Industry Growing In Las Vegas
Escapology employees discuss the growing escape room industry in the U.S. and Las Vegas. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Impact of parking fees on visiting the Las Vegas Strip
There are no data showing a relationship between Strip resort and parking fees and the number of out-of-state visitors to Las Vegas. But there are data showing a relationship between Strip parking fees and the number of local visitors to the the Strip. ‘’As a local, I find myself picking hotels I visit for dinner or entertainment, based on whether they charge for parking or not,”’ said David Perisset, the owner of Exotics Racing. ‘’It is not a matter of money, more of principle.’’ A 2018 survey by the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance found 36.9 percent of Clark County residents reported avoiding parking at Strip casinos that charge for parking. 29.1 percent reported avoiding using any services from a Strip casino that charges for parking.
MGM's sports betting deals
MGM Resorts International signed a sports betting sponsorship agreement with the NBA in July It was the first professional sports league to have official ties with a legal sports betting house. The deal came just two months after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a law prohibiting sports betting in most states. In October, MGM became the first gaming company to sign a sports betting partnership with the NHL. In November, MGM became the first gaming company to sign a sports betting partnership with the MLB. Financial terms of Tuesday’s deal and earlier partnerships have not been announced.
Faraday puts Las Vegas land on the market
Nearly two years after Faraday Future bailed on its North Las Vegas auto factory, the company has put its land up for sale. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
El Cortez owner Kenny Epstein on running the iconic property
Kenny Epstein, owner of the El Cortez Hotel in downtown Las Vegas, talks about Jackie Gaughan mentorship and answers rumors about bodies in the basement at the mob-era casino. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
LVCVA recommends construction of underground people mover
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority announced the recommendation for an underground people mover for the convention center. The system would have the potential to expand and connect Downtown and the resort corridor all the way to McCarran. (Michael Quine/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
LVCVA/Boring Company Press Conference
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority announced a collaboration with Elon Musk's The Boring Company to develop and operate an autonomous people mover system for the Las Vegas Convention Center District.
International Pizza Expo includes green and gluten free
The International Pizza Expo at Las Vegas Convention Center included companies focused on vegan and gluten free, and plant-based pizza boxes. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
International Pizza Expo kicks off in Las Vegas
The first day of the International Pizza Expo at Las Vegas Convention Center is everything Pizza. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
T-Mobile program aids guests with sensory needs
A program at T-Mobile Arena is designed to provide a more sensory friendly experience for guests.
Photo Booth Expo
Danielle May talks about how Simple Booth transformed her Volkswagen bus into a business.
Nevada Gaming Commission's highest fines
The highest fines assessed by the Nevada Gaming Commission, according to commission Chairman Tony Alamo: 1) Wynn Resorts Ltd., $20 million, 2019 2) CG Technology (then known as Cantor G&W Holdings), $5.5 million, 2014 3) The Mirage, $5 million ($3 million fine, $2 million compensatory payment), 2003 4) Stardust, $3 million, 1985 5) Santa Fe Station, $2.2 million ($1.5 million fine, $700,000 compensatory payment), 2005 6) Las Vegas Sands, $2 million, 2016 7) CG Technology, $1.75 million, 2018 8) CG Technology, $1.5 million (also $25,000 in escrow for underpaid patrons), 2016 9) Caesars Entertainment, $1.5 million, 2015 10) Imperial Palace, $1.5 million, 1989 11) Peppermill Casinos, $1 million, 2014
Tiny Pipe Home vs Shipping Crate
A Tiny pipe home was displayed at the International Builders Show this week in Las Vegas.
Auto repair shortage affects Las Vegas
The auto repair industry is facing a national shortage of workers.
Franchising industry booming
Experts say Las Vegas is a hotbed for the franchise industry.
Africa Love owner talks about his store in Las Vegas
Mara Diakhate, owner of Africa Love, gift and decor store, talks about his store in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Developer gets approval to build homes at Bonnie Springs
The Clark County Planning Commission has approved a plan to build 20 homes on the site of Bonnie Springs Ranch. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
Home Front Page Footer Listing