Current Nevada water law could force wells to be shut down, according to a report from a legislative subcommittee examining how Nevada manages its water.
A proposal to regulate domestic wells in times of drought was easily the most controversial issue discussed by the Legislative Commission’s Subcommittee to Study Water.
“Domestic wells do not require a water right permit from the state engineer, but are deemed by state law to be a ‘protectable interest’ and are allowed to use up to 2 acre feet of water annually,” according to the report. “Drought and growth have combined to create increasingly contentious water resources issues related to domestic wells.”
However, because the vast majority of wells are junior to other water users, if the state engineer ordered curtailment in a basin, those wells would be shut down.
“In a basin under curtailment by priority, many domestic wells would be entirely curtailed,” according to the report. “Priority date of a domestic well is the date of completion. In many areas, domestic wells have a junior priority and would be first curtailed. Concerns that domestic well users would then be deprived of all their water prompted a request for legislature to continue allowing indoor use in times of curtailment.”
Nevada law prohibits mining water from a basin, which means that users can’t take more water than is replaced by natural sources.
The state is divided into 256 hydrographic basins, and more than a fifth of those are considered severely over appropriated by the state engineer.
Bill drafts before the Legislature would permit the state engineer to allow reduced well use in basins under curtailment and reduce the water use for new well owners to half an acre foot.
According to the legislative website none of the drafts has been converted into bills.
Another water related bill draft would allow grant funding for cloud seeding. Nevada funded cloud seeding until the Great Recession, but the program was cut in 2008 because of significant budget shortages.