The Nevada Legislature is considering a slew of bills on water, from rainwater capture to domestic well use, but few directly affect Carson City.
“The water bills being heard are not very specific to our area,” said Steve Walker, who represents Carson City and Douglas and Lyon counties at the Legislature on issues of water, land use planning and natural resources.
Take, for example, domestic wells, the single biggest water issue facing the Legislature, according to Sen. Pete Goiceochea, R-Eureka.
“How many domestic wells are there in Carson City? Five?” said Walker. “I don’t think we have a lot of issues, especially in Carson City.”
Walker and Goiceochea spoke on a panel of Nevada water experts at the Sierra Nevada Forum’s event on water in the Brewery Arts Center’s Performance Hall on Wednesday.
The panel also featured Ed James, general manager, Carson Water Subconservancy District; David Rigdon, an attorney with Taggart & Taggart Ltd., a Carson City law firm who represents a range of water rights holders; and Howard Watts, communications specialist, Great Basin Water Network, which works to protect water in the Great Basin and stop the pipeline proposed by Southern Nevada Water Authority to pump groundwater from Spring, Cave, Dry Lake, and Delamar valleys and deliver it to Las Vegas.
One domestic well bill before the Legislature, said Goiceochea, could set the duty on new domestic wells in severely over-appropriated basins at half an acre foot instead of the two acre feet duty on existing wells.
Another would let owners of domestic wells continue to pump for indoor water use and to water pets and livestock if the state engineer curtails water in the basin by priority, which would normally cut off all domestic well water use.
A couple of bills specifically address Diamond Valley, the poster child for over-appropriation and over-pumping, said Goiceochea.
Another bill, Senate Bill 231, being heard by the Senate Committee on Natural Resources today, would require the state engineer to create a water budget and inventory of groundwater in the state.
“Water planning is huge,” said Goiceochea, “Planning is what it’s all about.”
Planning put Carson City in good stead, said Walker, after the city underwent a water rights acquisition and planning program.
“That’s what you need to do. I have this much land, this much water and match them, and allow development based on that,” said Walker.
The Carson River basin, like a fifth of basins in the state, is over appropriated.
“But the good news is we don’t over pump,” said James.
The bad news is upstream Carson River has little storage.
“Mother Nature is our storage,” said James.
That could be a problem in a hotter climate, said Walker, when asked of the impact of global warming.
“Most of the catchments on the Truckee River,” such as Lake Tahoe, “are at 5,000, 6,000 feet,” Walker said.
“The one that doesn’t have storage at those elevations is the Carson.”