October 26, 2023 — The State of Nevada has secured $25 million in federal funds to encourage irrigators to voluntarily reduce their water usage. This initiative mirrors efforts in other Colorado River Basin states and aims to support entities interested in buying and retiring state-issued water rights in areas where water resources are scarce. The goal is to remove these water allotments from the state’s records.
Six organizations, including the Southern Nevada Water Authority and the Nevada Land Trust, submitted applications for this program, requesting a combined total of just over $65 million in funding. With applications exceeding the federal funding by $40 million, a special advisory committee will review the applications and provide input to Nevada’s natural resources agency and Conserve Nevada, the organization responsible for distributing the grants. The state anticipates issuing the grants shortly after the advisory board meets on October 26th.
What sets Nevada’s buy-back program apart from other states’ efforts to pay farmers not to irrigate is that water rights will be permanently retired. Many water managers view this program as a test case for the establishment of a permanent water rights buyback program, which could have far-reaching implications for addressing water scarcity issues.