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Nevada Supreme Court rules in favor of “super basins” — how it could impact Amargosa and Beatty

Can some of Nevada’s water basins be grouped together and managed as a unit? The Nevada Supreme Court has decided the answer to that question is yes, so long as the basins involved share water flow.

“The Supreme Court of the State of Nevada has finally made a decision on Coyote Springs. This decision is pivotal in the state and changes water law in many ways,” Nye County Water District General Manager Dann Weeks announced during the water board’s Feb. 13 meeting. “What I’d like the board to know is… it appears that now the state engineer has the authority to manage multiple basins and create what they call a ‘super basin’.”

“Heretofore the state has managed these basins in isolation from each other,” water board member Ed Goedhart remarked. “Going forward, now it looks like they are allowing these basins to be managed under what’s called a super basin… which will have wide-reaching and far-reaching consequences.”

A “super basin” consists of individual basins with water resources that are interconnected and therefore, the perennial yields for each can be calculated, and the associated water rights can be managed, collectively. While the Pahrump Valley’s Basin #162 is not subject to such designation, other parts of Nye County could see an impact as this new super basin management technique is utilized.

Weeks told the Pahrump Valley Times that the basins between Beatty and Amargosa have interconnected water flow but, “At this time, there have been no changes to these basins’ perennial yield numbers. However, the recent Coyote Springs decision would, by precedent, tend to reinforce the Nevada Division of Water Resources’ authority to manage those basins in a collective manner.”

The Nevada Supreme Court’s decision on the matter came as part of a legal battle that has been fought out over roughly the last two decades regarding development of a brand new city, Coyote Springs, about 60 miles north of Las Vegas.

Developers are aiming to build a community of more than 150,000 homes but the Nevada state engineer has determined the pumpage in the super basin that would supply Coyote Springs with water must not exceed 8,000 acre-feet per year, leaving the development in a state of limbo. Lawsuits were filed and though the district court that initially heard the case sided with developers, the state’s appeal has prompted the Nevada Supreme Court to reverse much of the lower court’s decision.

“The state engineer has statutory authority to combine multiple basins into one hydrographic ‘super basin’ based on a shared source of water,” the ruling states.

Exactly how this will impact Beatty and Amargosa remains to be seen but the water board will be keeping an eye on the situation moving forward.

The next meeting of the Nye County Water District Governing Board is set for Tuesday, April 9 at 10 a.m. in the Nye County Commissioners’ Chambers, 2100 E. Walt Williams Drive.

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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