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COMMENTARY: Help pass SB81 to give the Division of Water Resources more flexibility in state

Senate Bill 81 is extremely important to the future well-being in Pahrump. It will give the Division of Water Resources sorely needed tools to correct an over-appropriated basin (Basin 162).

Let me give you some background. I have lived in Pahrump for 64 years. I farmed cotton through 1982 and alfalfa through 1996, as well as raised some cattle. I took a deep interest in water rights and water law.

Over time I acquired a fairly large acreage of farmland as well as some commercial property. At this time I am a residential and commercial land developer. We own and operate a small state-regulated utility providing water and sewer services. In addition, I served in the state Assembly for four terms from 1966 through 1974. We own a substantial amount of water rights in the utility company, as well as some rights outside the utility company. My house is on a domestic well.

Now, let me tell you about Pahrump Valley’s water problem. There are currently more than 60,000 acre feet of permitted water rights. There are approximately 11,000 domestic wells in Pahrump that are allowed 2 acre feet annually (AFA). There are approximately another 9,000 parcels of land of one acre or more that are eligible for domestic wells.

According to the Division of Water Resources, there is a perennial yield to the valley of 20,000 acre feet annually. Meaning that’s how much water comes into the valley each year on average.

When you add 60,000 AFA of appropriated water to 11,000 domestic wells allowed 2 AFA or 22,000 AFA, you get a total of 82,000 AFA. Then you add another potential 9,000 domestic wells at 2 AFA (or 18,000 AFA) with potential withdrawals of 60,000 + 22,000 + 18,000 AFA or 100,000 AFA, which far exceeds the 20,000 AFA annual recharge.

We need SB 82.

The majority of permitted water right holders have, and will continue to stand ready to make substantial reductions. Domestic well owners must also participate in reducing their use.

Understand that most domestic wells are junior to permitted rights and would be the first to be curtailed if they don’t participate in voluntary reductions and the State Engineer uses the priority system established by Nevada law.

M. Kent (Tim) Hafen is one of the founders of modern-day Pahrump.

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