Gardnerville sells surface water rights

GARDNERVILLE - Carson Water Subconservancy District board members were a day late in trying to buy more than 1,400 acre-feet of water rights.

The board was set to discuss the possibility of buying 1,402.27 acre-feet of surface water rights from the Gardnerville Town Water Co. on Wednesday. The only hitch was that the rights had been sold Tuesday to River Tree Ranch LLC, which reportedly plans to use the water for irrigation.

The revelation gave Subconservancy District member Kay Bennett, a Carson City supervisor, a sense of deja vu. In 1996, the district had pondered buying more of the water stored in Mud Lake, a reservoir south of Gardnerville, only to be beaten to the punch by Douglas County businessman Don Bently. The district keeps 526 acre-feet of water in reservoir, compared to the 2,646 held by Bently.

Though the district, which oversees Carson River-related issues in four Nevada counties, won't get the water, the resource will stay in Douglas County. Larry Clendenen, general manager of the water company, said the buyers were required to agree to use the water locally.

An acre-foot of water, enough to cover an acre of land to a depth of one foot, is considered enough to serve a family of four for a year.

Clendenen said the water company notified several entities in October that the water rights were for sale. He said two bids were submitted, but did not disclose the sale price. The Gardnerville Town Water Co. is a private, nonprofit corporation that serves about 1,400 households in Gardnerville.

The water company controls 6,000 acre-feet of ground water rights, Clendenen said, but currently only needs 1,200 to 1,500 acre-feet a year. The water company board decided to sell the surface water rights because of the costs of holding them.

"We were paying a lot of taxes on water rights that we had no current need for," Clendenen said. "We've never sold (water rights) before. These were rights we had accumulated over the years."

Eventually, the water company expects to need 5,000 to 6,000 acre-feet of water a year, but that probably won't happen for a few decades. Until then, Clendenen said the company is willing to sell rights as long as they are used in Douglas County.


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