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Nevada well-owner protection bill dies; other water bill moves forward

While a bill that would limit water allocation for new domestic wells continues its way through the Nevada Legislature, a separate bill that aimed to protect well owners in times of curtailment will not move forward.

Both bills were presented to the Nevada Senate Committee on Natural Resources on March 28 in Carson City.

Nevada Senate Committee on Natural Resources Chairwoman Yvonna Cancela, D-Las Vegas, said Senate Bill 271 would not move forward in the current legislative session.

“After hearing from constituents and well owners, it’s clear there is not support for this legislation,” Cancela said in a statement on Wednesday, April 12.

Under SB 272, which originated in the Nye County Water District, the amount of water that would be allowed to be pumped from a new well located in a basin designated as a critical management area or overpumped would be lowered from two acre-feet to 0.5 acre-feet starting July 1.

State Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, said Senate Bill 272 originated as an attempt to respond to issues that are prevalent in several basins across the state that are currently overappropriated. That means there’s not enough water for all of the permits.

“We’ve got issues in this state, folks. We’ve got domestic-well issues, we’ve got overappropriated basins. We are going to have to address it. I’m not sure we are going to be able to address it with this piece of legislation, but we are going to fix it quickly,” Goicoechea said.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Omar Saucedo, who testified on behalf of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, said the organization supports the policy behind the bill.

“We believe that a half-acre-foot is appropriate, and just to give some context with the conversation regarding two acre-feet, two acre-feet serves about six homes in Las Vegas,” Saucedo said.

Janine Hansen, Goicoechea’s former contender in the Senate race who spoke against the measure, said that six homes in Las Vegas with swimming pools are not the same as a two-acre or three-acre areas in rural communities.

“I am very concerned about protecting the rights of people now and in the future with regard to them being able to have a home and have things that make a difference living in a rural community,” Hansen said.

Diamond Valley, located in the central part of the state, is the only basin in Nevada that is currently in critical management. Pahrump Basin 162 is not overpumped, but it is one of over 25 basins that is overappropriated.

STATE ENGINEER

Nevada State Engineer Jason King said his office is neutral on the proposed bill but offered an amendment.

King offered to specify that new domestic wells in basins that are overappropriated, not overpumped, would be limited to 0.5 acre-feet annually.

“The language that’s currently drafted will not address the very basin that was the birthplace of the bill, and that’s Pahrump Valley,” King said.

The language in the bill doesn’t take away the ability of the state engineer’s office to deny drilling of any domestic wells pursuant to the Nevada Revised Statute for the basins where the state engineer determined that additional wells cause an undue interference with existing wells.

In the basins that are critical management areas or that are overpumped, a domestic well prior to July 1, 2017 is allotted up to 2 acre-feet per year.

“With all the other caveats that I just gave you, if we ever had to go to curtailment, they still have their priority. If the bill passes, they would still be curtailed,” King said.

Contact reporter Daria Sokolova at dsokolova@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @dariasokolova77

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