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Voluntary well metering urged

As crews continue their work drilling a well in the Calvada Eye this week, officials with the Nye County Water District were working on their continuing efforts to preserve Nevada’s most precious natural resource on Monday.

The board discussed several issues including a decision to allow the district’s general manager and legal counsel the ability to protest water rights applications in Nye County.

According to state law, the Nevada State Engineer must consider several elements when an individual or entity submits a water rights application for approval.

Chief among them is determining whether there is a beneficial use for the water.

The engineer must also determine if the use of water under the proposed application may prove detrimental to public interests.

Newly appointed board member John Bosta noted that it’s crucial the water board expedite its decision on the issue to ensure the process is budgeted properly.

Costs for protesting water rights applications are $30.

At present, Nye County Nuclear Waste Repository Department Director Darrell Lacy serves as general manager of the body.

“This would give general manager Darrell Lacy the ability to protest water rights that are timely and need to be made within the next 30 days. This would also give him the authority to do what he needs to do to the best of his judgment. It would also give him the time to bring back a plan that we can take a look at and approve in the future,” he said.

Bosta also said the county is moving past what seemed to be an archaic action in terms of protesting water rights applications.

“The old county policy was to protest all water rights applications so Mr. Lacy wanted some kind of direction on what to do and that’s where the discussion came up. I guess that’s going to be a decision that is going to be made as they come back with some kind of a plan on how they are going to handle this. I don’t have the number of protests that are filed regularly but there are several protests that have been filed and the state engineer has to take a look at the protests and then it’s a matter of if he denies the application because they are in direct violation of his orders,” he said.

Secretary Treasurer Susan Paprocki told the board that there are sufficient funds budgeted to support the action.

“It’s $250,000 a year and that was never used. We can reallocate a minimum amount which is $200 to start the ball rolling on this. Setting next year’s budget moving forward, we can set that as part of our program budget as well,” Paprocki said.

Following further discussion, board members voted unanimously to allow staff to proceed with any protests while drawing up complete plans for protesting water rights applications.

Board members also approved funding to staff the newly formed Ground Water Management Plan (GWMP) advisory committee budgeted for $60,000.

Last month, county commissioners appointed seven members to the body along with three alternates.

In related news, well owners this week were urged to take part in a voluntary metering program by Nye County water board member Michael Lach to avoid possible worse outcomes.

To date only eight people agreed to voluntarily meter their wells. Lach emphasized they want to get a lot of well owners to come up with a broad spectrum of water usage in the entire Pahrump Valley, individual well results will be kept confidential.

“We’re not looking to meter it and charge you for your water. We’re not looking to meter it for any reason other than to understand what the average person uses, not for what you individually use,” he said.

The water district held a morning session Monday, while the new Basin 162 Groundwater Management Plan Advisory Committee met in the afternoon, to hear State Engineer Jason King make a presentation on Nevada water law, consider a work plan, formulate bylaws and create a mission statement.

David Welch had worries over the state forcing well owners to pay for meters on domestic wells and assessing them for the amount of water used.

“Right now there is not a plan to put meters on domestic wells right now and I would say in the near future. A lot of it depends on what is the fallout from this management plan. Our office would really like to know how much domestic well owners are using in Pahrump Valley, what is that comfort level. I would like to see more meter usage in Pahrump. I’m not going to say it would happen right now,” King said.

Water board consultant Oz Wichman corrected Lach; he said if volunteers sign up for a metering program, their name and address becomes part of the public record, even if that data is not used in publishing the results of the study.

Well owners are allowed to use up to two acre feet of water per year. King said he will work with the groundwater management committee on that allocation. But he said, “if we have 1,000 meters out there and it says the average use is only 250 gallons per day that’s not going to be as big an issue.”

In a breakthrough for the start of developing a plan to bring Pahrump’s groundwater basin into balance with usage and the amount of recharge, King said his office is accepting 20,000 acre feet as recharge for the Pahrump basin, instead of 12,000 acre feet.

Dwight Lilly said he invested about $40,000 in landscaping his property because a real estate agent told him there was enough water in Pahrump Valley for 250,000 people. He urged the state engineer to use caution in approving new development.

“Take a look at any type of moratorium on long term plans for the developers that might be looking at coming into the valley now that the economy is improving before we get a handle on what resources we have and what the recharge is of water,” Lilly said.

Pahrump Valley Times reporter Selwyn Harris contributed to this story.

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