weather icon Clear

Bill calls for inventory of vested water rights in dry Nevada

CARSON CITY — With drought gripping Nevada and much of the West, the state’s top water official and a state senator said it’s time to inventory how much water there is and who owns what by tidying up the books on water rights that pre-date state law.

“Clearly if we’re going to establish a water inventory … we have to understand what water is available, what is permitted,” state Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, told members of the Assembly Government Affairs Committee during a hearing April 22.

At issue are so-called “vested” rights initiated by putting water to beneficial use before state law was enacted setting regulations for surface water use in 1905, artesian groundwater in 1913 and percolating groundwater in 1939.

“We have to address those pre-statutory claims if we’re ever going to know who has those water rights,” Goicoechea said, adding that, it’s difficult to determine whether water resources within a particular basin are over-appropriated or if water is available.

Senate Bill 485, which the Senate passed unanimously, would require anyone who claims a pre-statutory water right to submit proof to the state engineer within 10 years, by 2025. Goicoechea and State Engineer Jason King conceded the task could take longer.

If no proof is offered by the deadline, water claims would be extinguished.

King said his office has about 8,800 vested claims on file. “I know there’s more out there,” he said.

Having claims on file would make the process easier when pre-statutory water rights are adjudicated by a court, King said. “If people don’t do their due diligence, than it’s deemed to be abandoned. That’s the whole purpose of this bill.”

State water law is based in part on a pecking order — those who hold the oldest water rights have first dibs. It also requires that water be put to beneficial use. Another “use it or lose it” provision says if water isn’t put toward its permitted use, it can be issued to someone else.

King and Goicoechea conceded finding proof of water rights could be difficult because some might have been passed down through the generations, scribbled on affidavits or other documents not recorded.

Still, the more time that goes by, the more difficult the task will become, they said.

“If we don’t put the pressure on to get it started, we’re never going to get there,” Goicoechea said.

Nevada is the driest state in the nation, receiving about 9 inches of precipitation annually. Excluding the Colorado River, the state gets 4.5 million acre-feet of surface water from runoff and another 2 million acre-feet from groundwater in 256 water basins around the state, according to the state engineer’s office.

One acre-foot is enough to supply two average Las Vegas Valley homes for more than a year.

In contrast, the Columbia River at The Dalles in Oregon averages a water flow of 200,000 cubic feet per second.

To put it in perspective, the amount of water passing through that river gauge every 16 days is equal to the entire annual surface and groundwater supply in Nevada, the state engineer said.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Serenity Health’s vaccine effort underway in Pahrump

Monday, May 3 was a big day for the owner and staff at Serenity Mental Health. After weeks of painstaking preparation, the health care company has now officially branched out into COVID-19 vaccine administration.

Pahrump Music Festival still accepting vendors, talent

Lovers of music, art and creativity, those who revel in community gatherings, excitement and activity, mark the calendar for the first weekend in June because organizers of the Pahrump Music Festival are promising four days of fun that are sure to delight the ears, eyes and even the tastebuds.

Brush fires continue to challenge fire crews

As daytime temperatures continue to climb as summer approaches, Pahrump Valley Fire and Rescue Services Chief Scott Lewis recently spoke about the conditions which present numerous challenges for area firefighters.

Pahrump Senior Center reopens

There was a very odd occurrence at the Pahrump Senior Center on Monday, May 3.

Local woman accused of stalking

A Pahrump woman was taken into custody following an extensive stalking investigation.

Sales tax holiday proposed for guard members

Gov. Steve Sisolak on Wednesday touted the efforts undertaken during to the COVID-19 crisis to mitigate its economic impacts on Nevada.

Beatty VFW honors VSO Brandi Matheny

Brandi Matheny, of Pahrump, was recognized with a special award by the Veterans of Foreign Wars John Strozzi Post 12108 at their May 12 meeting.

JIM WANG: Let’s get vaccinated: Why vaccination will protect you and the community

From state-wide lockdowns to mandatory health and safety measures, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we work, live and play, and unfortunately, has resulted in severe illness and death for many. Since January of 2020, there have been about 32 million reported cases of COVID-19 and about 570,000 total deaths from the virus in the United States. Specific populations of people are at higher risk of getting severely ill or dying from the virus. Among these are adults 65 or older, people with underlying health conditions and people with disabilities. In addition, people in vulnerable populations and some racial and ethnic minority groups are disproportionately affected by COVID-19.