Clarify well use rules
April 20, 2017
Nevadans rely on roughly 40,000 domestic wells for their sole source of water, according to the State Engineer's Office. A tenth of those wells serve residents of Douglas County.
That's why alarm bells went off at the contention the state engineer could shut off great swaths of domestic wells in cases of extreme drought.
Taking more water out of a hydrographic basin than is recharged by nature is called mining water, and it's illegal in Nevada.
The state relies on seniority of the water right to determine who gets to keep pumping. If a basin was placed under curtailment, senior water users would get to continue to use their water right while junior users would go dry.
The only previous instances where this has happened is for supplemental agricultural groundwater rights in Smith and Mason valleys. The state engineer asked water users to cut their pumping, but a district judge determined that seniority applied.
The question of how that water law affects domestic well owners is before the courts. While domestic well owners have a right to 2-acre feet of water from their wells, they don't have 2-acre feet of water rights. In other words, they don't have the legal ability to separate and sell use of the water.
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However, they are completely reliant on the well for the survival of their household. We believe that the law surrounding domestic wells in Nevada could use some clarification, and the courts are the best place for that to happen.