Nevada water official retires, court fights go to successor
LAS VEGAS — Nevada’s top water regulator has stepped down after eight years as state engineer, leaving several key court battles to his acting successor.
Jason King retired last Friday after 28 years as a state employee, and Nevada Department of Conservation & Natural Resources chief Bradley Crowell announced last week that he would be replaced at least temporarily by state Division of Water Resources Deputy Administrator Tim Wilson.
Wilson has been with the department since 1995 and served as King’s top aide.
The state engineer is responsible for the appropriation and regulation of water in the nation’s most arid state, except the Colorado River, and for oversight of water well drilling, dam safety, water planning and flood plain management.
King oversaw key water rights issues including an ongoing effort by the Southern Nevada Water Authority to get approval to pump groundwater from arid valleys west of the Utah state line and pipe it to Las Vegas.
In 2012, King decided the Las Vegas-based water authority could tap some of the groundwater it wants in rural Clark, Lincoln and White Pine counties. Last year, he rescinded those water rights because of a 2013 court ruling that he said he disagreed with but was legally bound to follow.
That decision is under appeal, along with contentious orders that King issued since 2017 barring new domestic groundwater wells in rural Pahrump west of Las Vegas and prohibiting more pumping by the developers of the stalled Coyote Springs development on the Clark and Lincoln county line, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported .
In both cases, King said he was acting to protect existing well owners and water levels in aquifers he considered to be severely over-appropriated.
New Democratic Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak credited King with steadfast leadership and thoughtful management of crucial water resources.
“I am confident Tim Wilson will continue the direction and progress established under Jason’s leadership on the many critical water issues and policies that affect all Nevadans,” Sisolak said.