Carson officials worry about possible changes in water law | NevadaAppeal.com
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Carson officials worry about possible changes in water law

Carson’s City Engineer Larry Werner asked lawmakers Friday to be careful if they clamp down on interbasin and intercounty transfers of water because major changes in the law could cause serious problems for the capital city.

“Carson City, within its political boundaries, has five water basins – four we get groundwater from and one we get surface water from,” he told the committee studying rural water issues. “Our distribution system is intertied among all these wells.”

He said, after testifying, what that means is: “Every time somebody flushes a toilet in Carson City, he is effectively causing an interbasin water transfer.”

One of the goals of rural lawmakers on the study committee is to make it harder for Southern Nevada Water Authority to take water from Lincoln, White Pine, Elko and other counties to support population growth in Las Vegas. The panel headed by Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora, and Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, has expressed concern over Southern Nevada’s applications to buy and pipe billions of gallons of water to Las Vegas, saying that could permanently prevent any economic development in rural and eastern Nevada.

“We don’t necessarily want to be collateral damage if there is a change in law relating to interbasin and intercounty transfers,” Werner said.

He said Carson City shares the Washoe Valley and Eagle Valley water basins with Washoe County, the Dayton water basin with Lyon and Douglas and the Carson Valley water basin with Douglas. In addition, the capital gets surface water from the Marlette Lake system, which is in the Tahoe water basin.

With wells in every corner of the city, he said, water from all of those sources flows constantly through Carson City’s municipal water system. Marlette also supplies Virginia City – which is in yet another water basin.

“If it turns out you have to do an adjudication or inter-basin study to do a transfer within our basin, it would severely hamper the use of our water resource,” he said.

He said tougher rules for moving water between basins could also cause problems with the city’s proposal to drill wells in the Minden area.

He said Carson City owns water rights in the Carson Valley basin, but that geology in South Carson City makes it expensive – $12 million – to drill the wells. It would be as much as one-sixth as expensive – $2 million – to drill wells near the center of that aquifer to north of Minden.

“We already own the water,” he said. “We’re just trying to work out the most efficient way to pump it.

Committee members including Sen. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, promised to keep Carson City’s concerns in mind when developing any legislation to change existing water law.

— Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.