Lincoln County Water District (LCWD) general manager Wade Poulsen said the upcoming Nevada State Legislative session has a bill dealing with water issues he feels need to be of note and concern for residents of the state, as well as the County.
Speaking at the regular meeting of the Lincoln County Water Board Jan. 20 in Pioche, Poulsen said a water bill of major importance is being proposed, which also has the support of the State Water Engineers Office.
Poulsen stated the bill is SB 65, and Section 9 of that bill, “deals with trying to distinguish the measurement of water, and states that if a cubic foot is a measurement of water, they want to term everything as an acre foot. So, if you have a well that is pumping, but does not have a duty assigned to it by the State Water Engineer, it will become subject to the acre-foot measurement.”
Poulsen continued, “Therefore, if you have a CFS, which is a cubic foot measurement on your certificated right, but not an acre-foot certificated right, then you must supply your pumping history and logs to the state engineer so they can determine what the acre-foot rate is. And, if you are not pumping up to the equal of the CFS, then you will lose your certificated water right. They will just allocate to what the acre-foot level is, and not the CFS.”
Nevada State Senator Pete Goicoechea of Eureka, who represents Lincoln County, and chair of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, has been informed of the concerns from the LCWD, and Poulsen said he and legal counsel Dylan Frehner may be called to Carson City to testify.
Another section of SB 65 Poulsen said is designed “to make surface water and groundwater alike in all of the law. Meaning that there are some laws that apply to surface water, and some that apply to groundwater, and they are trying to meld all those laws to say groundwater and surface water.”
He explained the bill seeks “to make groundwater subject to all of the laws pertaining to surface water, and we believe that it should not happen. Surface water should be treated separately from ground water.”
He admitted in some instances, the two are the same, but not in other instances. “If you have a drought condition,” he said, “and the river is running low on the surface, and you have to impose restrictions from a conservation plan or something to draw water, then that would also apply to the ground water, even though the groundwater is stable.”
He noted, “There are some things in this section of the bill we don’t appreciate. It’s a pretty big law. They are going through and changing all the language to say surface and groundwater in quite a bit of it.”
Poulsen said at first glance, Section 9 of SB 65 sounds all right. “What they are doing is identifying what the measurement of water is, it’s acre-foot.” An acre foot is 325,851.43 US gallons, or in another way of thinking, a regulation football field covered with water one foot deep).
“For many it’s OK to do that, but not for the water applications that were certificated in the late 1960s to the early 1970s that did not have a duty assigned. In essence what is being said, ‘You have to prove up your water twice for that certificate.’ We feel that is a drastic and huge change to the premise of Nevada water law. Everything you have been asked to do to get that certificated right, now they’re changing the rules.”
Just how much legislative support for SB 65 there may be, Poulsen said he did not know.
The 78th Session of the Nevada Legislature will begin on Feb. 2.