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Proposal to meter new domestic wells gains traction

A controversial plan to meter new domestic wells was one of the water loss mitigation efforts approved by the county water district and water management committee on Monday.

A start date for the metering system, and other details concerning that implementation of the plan, including associated costs, were not announced.

An eight-hour meeting of the Nye County Water District and Pahrump Basin 162 Groundwater Management Plan Committee, yielded results that will help move the county toward solving its water problems.

Nye County Water District member Michael Lach clarified the definition of “new” domestic wells as any newly-drilled well, excluding those parcels of property that had an unpumped well or well-casing in place. Also to be excluded from the metering plan are wells that need to be “lowered” or redrilled.

The measure, first proposed by the groundwater management committee as part of a water plan to obviate a designation of an “active” management area by the state water engineer, did not pass unanimously.

Several objections to the proposal were cited including a claim that meters on wells turned a “right” into a “privilege,” the anticipated necessity of providing access to private property for meter readings and an un-proven water shortage in the Pahrump basin.

Area 4 water district committee member Greg Dann was the sole no vote, voicing fears that if the state water engineer is able to determine through the data that the permitted two-acre feet of water per well is not being consumed, those amounts could be reduced.

The well-attended meeting, though fraught with accusations, finger-pointing and explanations resulted in meaningful progress toward implementing water conservation efforts. Those efforts include implementation of a plan to meter new domestic wells, compilation of a list of tax sale parcels that could be used to create retention basins or other water loss mitigation efforts and the award of a professional services contract to update the 11-year old county water resource plan.

Acting on Planning Director Darrell Lacy’s recommendation, the water district directed that any parcels of property scheduled to be sold at auction for unpaid taxes, that could instead be used to build retention basins or for other beneficial water mitigation measures, be removed from the list of properties to be sold. Lach said the measure will remove the use of a substantial number of acre-feet of water from the basin over a period of time.

The water district also authorized a contract with MaryEllen C. Giampaoli of Blue Diamond, to update the 2004 water resources plan, at a cost not to exceed $80,000. The water resource plan update was identified as a priority for the groundwater management committee, according to Nye County Geoscience Manager Levi Kryder.

Dann objected to expending funds for the update and instead suggested funding the data collection and water modeling program needed to get a better idea of aquifer levels and projections for water use. Lacy said the water resource plan is used in decision making by other county departments including the planning department and the department of public works.

Following discussion, a proposed resolution implementing a three-to-one water relinquishment mitigation policy for commercial or industrial uses, was tabled for further refinement. The measure has successfully been used by the Board of County Commissioners as a special condition in granting a permit for a proposed RV park. However, prior to reducing a resolution to writing, language differentiating an agricultural versus a commercial marijuana operation will be examined.

In related business, the board also approved a water impact plan for a proposed medical marijuana cultivation and production facility located at 950 E. Anvil Road in Amargosa Valley. The plans calls for maximum annual water usage of 6. 75 million gallons for cultivation and 3.4 million gallons for irrigation.

The next meeting of the Water District is March 23 at 9 a.m. at the County Commission Chambers located at 2100 E. Walt Williams Drive in Pahrump.

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