State engineer to well owners: Be part of solution

State Engineer Jason King urged the Private Well Owners Cooperative of Nye County to compromise and be part of the solution, in a response to that group’s call for proof of beneficial use of all perfected water rights in Pahrump Valley.

Frank Maurizio, president of the well owners group, wrote a letter to King dated June 30, stating the group wouldn’t accept any reduction of water for a domestic well below two acre feet per year.

“Any language requirement less of 1,800 gallons a day is unacceptable,” he wrote.

The private well owners recently organized as a nonprofit group that formed under the Internal Revenue Code as a water cooperative utility. Maurizio said the state Legislature in 1993 created a protectable interest in domestic wells, which he says isn’t subject to forfeiture.

“In Nevada, wells for domestic use are the only type of water wells that are exempt from the state’s water rights permitting process,” Maurizio wrote. “Domestic well use is not a water right use.”

Domestic use exempt from the water rights process includes water used for culinary use and household purposes related to a single-family dwelling, including watering a garden or animals, he wrote.

Maurizio wrote that the most important objective of the new committee drawing up a water plan for Pahrump Valley, the Basin 162 Groundwater Management Plan Advisory Committee, is to follow the state Legislature’s policy to protect the water supply of two acre-feet per year of the 11,200 domestic wells from what he called unreasonable adverse effects caused by municipal, quasi-municipal, commercial or industrial uses that can’t reasonably be mitigated.

Maurizio said Greg Dann, a groundwater plan committee member, presented statistics that only 8,582 acre feet of water were being used out of 62,450 acre feet of water rights.

Maurizio specifically keyed in on Utilities Inc. of Central Nevada, which he said banks water rights as a tool for developers and property owners to transfer water to UICN to hold for future use. A water supply appraisal investigative report by Glorieta Geoscience reported UICN had 25,603 acre feet of water rights out of a total of 30,050 acre feet of water rights held by community water systems, but the study said UICN only used 3,625 acre feet in 2010 for homes, businesses, golf courses and irrigation.

In his reply, King said the state engineer’s office can call for proof of beneficial use as an option in drawing up a Pahrump groundwater management plan. But if that option were chosen, it would be administered throughout the basin, he said.

“I will take this opportunity to again try to impress upon you and your organization the importance of domestic well owners being willing to compromise and be a part of the solution to the overdraft situation in the basin. It appears the position your organization is taking is that every water user in the basin except domestic well owners should be curtailed,” King wrote.

Assembly Bill 419, passed in the 2011 state Legislature, allows the state engineer to regulate water rights by priority date in basins that are in an overdraft situation for 10 years, unless a groundwater management plan is approved. King reminded the group state law provides the priority date of a domestic well is the date the well is completed and quotes from the state law that if curtailment of water is necessary, “withdrawals, including, without limitation, withdrawals from domestic wells, be restricted to conform to priority rights.”

“Regulation by priority is the last step our office wants to take, but unless all stakeholders participate and compromise the GMP (groundwater management plan) has no chance of succeeding and our office could be left with no other alternative,” King wrote in his replay, dated June 30.

When asked for a comment, Greg Hafen II, the chairman of the Basin 162 Groundwater Management Plan Advisory Committee, said “I cannot speak on behalf of the groundwater management committee. As a resident of this community and a stakeholder on this issue, I agree with Mr. King’s letter. This is an issue that everyone must work together to resolve.”

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