Diamond Valley water fight must include all rights holders, Nevada Supreme Court rules
May 17, 2018
The Nevada Supreme Court has ruled all the water rights holders in Diamond Valley have the right to participate in a show cause hearing demanding pumping be curtailed.
The hearing was ordered to determine whether pumping should be cut back in the valley, which has been over appropriated for decades. As a result of that pumping, the opinion says the ground water level has fallen about 100 feet and Sadler Ranch owners want pumping by those with junior water rights cut back to protect their water rights. Sadler Ranch has water rights dating to the 1800s. Under Nevada law, that means they get their water first and junior rights holders get what's left.
But they argued and the district court agreed junior water rights holders don't have the right to be noticed and participate in the show cause hearing because who will be cut back won't be decided then, only whether pumping should be cut back.
The state engineer and Eureka County challenged that ruling on behalf of all the other water rights holders in the valley saying the show cause hearing is "a decision on whether curtailment should begin."
The Supreme Court panel of James Hardesty, Ron Parraguirre and Lidia Stiglich agreed, writing unless they can participate in the show cause hearing, some junior water rights holders would only be notified their water rights were being reduced, "after their only meaningful opportunity to protect their rights has passed."
"Because the district court's consideration of the matter at the upcoming show cause hearing could potentially result in the initiation of curtailment proceedings, we conclude that due process requires junior water rights holders in diamond Valley be given notice and an opportunity to be heard," the opinion states.
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The high court instructed the state engineer to notify and invite junior water rights holders to participate.