Western View: Nevada Water Wars Heating Up

Taylor Hillman Features, Western View

Filling glass of water from stainless steel kitchen faucet
Folks in Nevada are up in arms about a new state law that would regulate residential wells and allow the State Engineer to order water use reductions in homes served by private wells.
The law would also require Nevada domestic well users to install meters at their own expense, and allow inspectors to read them.

The State says that the changes are intended to protect well owners. Water law doctrine is “first in line, first in right”, which means that senior water rights owners get their allotments before junior ones. However, domestic well owners do not have a permitted water right. Under current law, they are last in line – and they could be completely cut off.

I have a private well, in an area of 2 to 5 acre residential lots and larger agricultural operations. The idea that the government could order me to put a meter on my well, and reduce usage like the people in cities, is repulsive. That’s my well, I paid to have it dug, and it pulls water that’s on my land – now I have to meter it and pay by the gallon, and maybe reduce my usage?

But, equally concerning is the sure knowledge that my neighbor’s half section of citrus isn’t on a ditch – he waters his trees from the same ground I get my drinking water. Like it or not, we’re connected by the aquifers below us, and what happens on his land could have a big effect on mine. How fair is it if someone else buys that half section, puts in a shopping center and apartments, and puts in wells that dry up my whole neighborhood?

The Nevada measures sound draconian. In many parts of the state they don’t have enough water for existing developments, much less casinos or factories on a grand scale. It sure seems to me there has to be an accord that respects the rights of current residents and prevents new developments from destroying their way of life.

I’m Len Wilcox and that’s the Western View from AgNet West.