Tesla’s Gigafactory, now under construction in northern Nevada, is expected to offer some 6,000 manufacturing jobs, which will be welcome in a state whose economy is dependent on gambling and tourism.
Most are enthusiastic about the new development, but there are questions about whether local resources and infrastructure will be adequate. As always in this part of the country, water is a prime concern.
Tesla has not said exactly how much water the massive facility will require, but it has already discussed the issue with state officials. “Water was a pretty significant part of the conversation,” Steve Hill, Director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “They certainly wanted to make sure that water was not going to be a problem for them.”
The Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center allocates a half-acre foot of water for every acre a tenant develops, so Tesla, which is developing 1,000 acres, will receive 500 acre-feet of water. “That’s a starting point,” Hill said. “[The amount needed] 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.”
“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.”
The colorful Lance Gilman, one of the owners of the industrial park, said the center has ample supplies, its own treatment plant and a sophisticated recycling system. “The treated water…we pipe that up to a reservoir that’s 100 acres in size,” he said. “We can hold 1,000 acre-feet of water in storage within that lake. We recycle everything we use out there.”
Others are skeptical. “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.
In case more water is needed, a project to transfer treated effluent from the Truckee Meadows Water Reclamation Facility, about 20 miles away, has been proposed. “What we plan to do is use that recycled water as the additional water for the Tesla manufacturing operation,” said Steve Hill. “There’s more than enough excess water coming out of the treatment plant than Tesla would need.”
The water issue “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.”
Meanwhile, Tesla may be indirectly helping to bolster development in another part of the state. The Apex Industrial Park in North Las Vegas, which opened 20 years ago, is still mostly empty, because there’s not enough water to support manufacturing.
Local leaders plan to offer large property and sales tax breaks to lure a couple of large companies to the site, providing the investment needed to build out water and power infrastructure. The incentives were made possible by the legislation that the state passed in September for Tesla’s benefit.