Bill in Nevada Legislature aims to protect newer wells

Senate member James Settlemeyer listens to public comment regarding Senate Bill 271 on Tuesday.

Senate member James Settlemeyer listens to public comment regarding Senate Bill 271 on Tuesday.

Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, told fellow members of Senate Natural Resources on Tuesday SB271 is designed to protect homeowners on newer domestic wells.

SB271 requires if the State Engineer declares a critical shortage in a water basin and orders pumping curtailed, he not completely cut off domestic wells that don’t have the priority that comes with having been drilled decades ago. Goicoechea said those well owners would still be allowed to pump enough water for in-home domestic needs and to water their animals.

He said existing law states if the State Engineer curtails well pumping by priority, those with newer wells that lack the necessary priority under the law would simply be cut off, shut down.

He said there are a lot of water basins in Nevada that are over developed and may face curtailment. Some, such as the Pahrump Valley, he said, are way over appropriated and, “are going to be over-pumped.”

He said the purpose of SB271 is to ensure those newer wells aren’t just shut down, leaving the homeowner with no water.

State Engineer Jason King agreed: “Current law requires them to be cut off completely.”

He said his division thought that was too harsh and raised a health and safety issue.

But Goicoechea said that “begs the question” of whether the state has the right to inspect domestic wells on private property or to install meters on those wells to control how much is pumped.

“We’ve got to know how much is pumped,” he said.

He said he believes the issues of access to property and metering will have to be settled in court.

King disagreed saying to him the law is clear. He said a 1939 statute says the state engineer and his assistants “shall have the right to enter the property of any well owner,” for purposes of inspecting the well on that property, including domestic wells.

He said they do their best to notify the property owner first but there has been resistance: “I’ve had a shotgun pulled on me.”


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