While decades-old Nevada water wars are periodically joined by a new battle or two, communities along the Carson River are beginning to take the unusual step of collaborating.
Rather than sharing water, talk of collaboration is more centered on sharing facilities, like pipes and pumps.
"The worst case scenario is, say, for Dayton to have all these pipes in the road and Stagecoach to have their pipes right alongside them," said Ed James, general manager of the multi-county agency Carson Water Subconservancy District.
The subconservancy district this spring adopted a policy to seek out regional water system opportunities between neighboring communities along the river.
At least for now, "regional water system" simply implies things like hooking pipes of nearby water systems together, so both systems would have adequate water supply and pressure in the event of an emergency, such as fire or a well malfunction.
It would pretty much be for emergencies only, said City Engineer Larry Werner. But it could also open up the possibility of one community buying water rights in the other, then taking it out of the system.
To do that, of course, would be to ship water across county lines, a course of action that has become the source of the latest Nevada water wars in the southern part of the state.
"The political issues we're going to have to deal with are the hardest thing to overcome," James said last month.
When the prospect of regional water systems was discussed at a subconservancy district meeting in May, most Carson River communities were intrigued, James said. Churchill County, the last stop on the river, was worried.
"We're at the end of the line, so the river above us has a real effect on us," said Churchill County Manager Brad Goetsch. "It's the main source of water we depend on, so there's a little sensitivity there."
Among other things, Churchill County is concerned with any water system proposal that might lead to using up river water before it gets to the largely agricultural community about 65 miles east of Carson City. Lately, Churchill County has been most concerned with new wells in the immediate vicinity of the river.
Areas like Dayton, Stagecoach and Silver Springs don't have the water to sustain much development, Goetsch said, but they're booming just the same.
"Why do we make an assumption that irresponsible development requires resources to be found to support it," he said last month.
Lyon County Planning Director Steve Hasson confirmed the corridor between Carson City and Churchill County is booming. This spring, the U.S. Census Bureau proclaimed Lyon the fastest-growing county in the West. Last year, Dayton alone grew by 23 percent - the national average is 2 percent.
Silver Springs is the most recent spot to start receiving attention from large developers, Hasson said, and it's true, he confirmed, "we really need to import water," if Silver Springs is to blossom like Dayton.
At this point, James said, the subconservancy district's efforts are focused solely on improving reliability, fire flow protection and sharing the costs of operating water utilities.
Stagecoach and Dayton are candidates to link water systems, or Stagecoach and Silver Springs. So are Minden and Indian Hills. But the two systems most likely to hook up soon are Carson City and Mound House.
When Carson City began extending a water main east toward the county line to improve water pressure in case of fire in the commercial and industrial area, the subconservancy district chipped in extra cash, so the city would give up the 12-inch pipes that would have been used in favor of a 16-inch water main that can carry enough water to also serve Mound House.
There is no agreement to link Carson City and Mound House's water systems, but there has been talk, said Carson City Development Director Andy Burnham. And with the thicker pipe already being extend nearly to the county line, it would be easy to do.
James is researching water system agreements between communities around the country to try and gauge what kind of language would fit water utilities along the Carson River.
"That's the hang-up right now," he said. "What would the agreement say?"
n Contact reporter Cory McConnell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1217.
Why You Should Care
A water main Carson City is extending to the east edge of town to improve pressure in case of fire there may one day be linked to the Mound House water system.