weather icon Clear

Water bill includes amendment for Pahrump

CARSON CITY — Bills protecting domestic well owners from possible water cutoffs and authorizing the state engineer to limit how much domestic wells can pump in overappropriated basins drew little opposition Tuesday.

Senate Bills 271 and 272 are sponsored by the Legislative Commission’s subcommittee to study water, a body which met around Nevada last year to address how the driest state in the nation can better manage its most precious resource.

Domestic wells do not have permitted water rights but are allowed to pump two acre-feet of water annually. But because Nevada water law is grounded in the doctrine of “first in time, first in right,” domestic wells are last in line when it comes to entitlement.

Under existing law, the state engineer could shut down domestic wells to protect the rights of senior water rights holders if there is not enough water to go around.

The intent of SB271 is to specify in law that if that situation should occur, domestic well owners would still be allowed water for indoor domestic use, pets and livestock — provisions they are not currently afforded.

“In the event the state engineer curtailed water rights by priority … the state engineer would have to allow at least domestic well water for indoor use and watering of livestock and pets,” said state Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, who is looked up to in the Legislature as a water rights expert.

SB272 authorizes the state engineer to limit new domestic wells to one-half acre-foot of water annually if a basin is designated as a critical management area where pumping routinely exceeds perennial yield — the amount of recharge needed to sustain groundwater levels.


An amendment sought by State Engineer Jason King would change the reference to perennial yield to include any basin that is overappropriated — where water rights accounted for on paper exceed water that is actually available.

“The language as currently drafted will not address the very basin that was the birthplace of this bill — Pahrump Valley,” King testified. “While Pahrump is overappropriated, it is currently not overpumped and, therefore, would not be subject to the 0.5-acre-foot limitation.”

There are about 11,000 domestic wells in Pahrump and roughly 8,000 undeveloped lots where wells would be needed.

Nye County water officials have projected 2,000 wells could go dry in the next 20 years unless steps are taken to bring the basin back into balance between recharge and use.

If enacted, SB272 would only apply in overappropriated basins for new wells drilled after July 1. It does not authorize the state engineer to restrict withdrawals from existing domestic wells or existing wells requiring repair or replacement.

King stressed that neither bill takes away the state engineer’s ability to regulate domestic wells when a curtailment is ordered, including the denial of new wells if they would interfere with existing wells.

Critics objected to government intervention of domestic water use and pointed a finger at the state engineer’s office for approving development maps decades ago that they said contributed to overappropriation.

The committee took no action on the domestic well bills.

Contact Sandra Chereb at schereb@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3821. Follow @SandraChereb on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
RAM event: Free medical clinic needs your help

Next weekend, Remote Area Medical will be bringing its pop-clinic to the valley for the eighth straight year and members of the local host group committee are urging the public to get involved by donating their time to this life-changing event.

USO Benefit Show set to be the best yet — here’s how to get a ticket

The Nevada Silver Tappers are well-known for their patriotic routines and their generosity to the veteran community and this October, these elements will combine into two nights of fantastic fundraising with the annual USO Benefit Show.

How a Soroptomist scholarship helped a Pahrump mom of 3

Embarking on an educational path as an adult can be challenging and for those acting as head-of-household, it can be all the more difficult.

A Smoky Valley curtain call: Youth theater debuts a Disney classic

Andrew Sweeney played multiple roles as the prince, the beast, Monsieur D’Arque and the baker. “My favorite part of BATB JR was getting to be part of the team and meeting all the other cast members,” he said. “I didn’t feel nervous because we were very prepared for the performance.”

Peek inside this senior-living community’s gardens (GALLERY)

Spring Mountain Apartments, a low-income senior living community in Pahrump, has a brand new community garden to enjoy thanks to a partnership with two of the valley’s major nonprofit organizations, the NyE Communities Coalition and the Master Gardeners with the University of Nevada, Reno Cooperative Extension.

1,000-plus cats and dogs spayed/neutered

In just seven months’ time, Tails of Nye County has managed to spay or neuter over 1,000 stray cats and personal pets in the Pahrump area with the help of funding from the Nye County American Rescue Plan Act Grant Program.

Want to seek public office? 2 seats up for appointment on Beatty Town Advisory Board

The deadline is 5 p.m. Oct. 30 to submit letters of interest to fill two seats on the Beatty Town Advisory Board that are up for reappointment after the end of the year. Letters of interest can be submitted to the Beatty Town Office. What you need to know.

Lakeview Golf Course on the upswing

Lakeview Executive Golf Course will remain under the operation of CourseCo for another five years, following renewal of a management contract with the town of Pahrump. Here’s how the troubled course turned itself around.