Nevada group questions motives behind water rights overhaul

Nevada's Great Basin part of water rights feud
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  • Great Basin Water Network (GBWN) alleges powerful interests push for changes.
  • Proposed overhaul aims to limit public participation and influence water rights proceedings, according to GBWN.
  • Critics argue the changes would undermine existing safeguards and favor corporate interests.
  • GBWN calls on lawmakers to reject the proposal and protect public water resources.

May 31, 2024 — The Great Basin Water Network (GBWN)Opens in a new tab. has raised concerns over a proposed overhaul of Nevada’s water rights proceedings, alleging that powerful interests are pushing for changes that would limit public participation and undermine existing safeguards.

According to GBWN, developers, lobbyists, and politicians with ties to major industries in Nevada and the West have been crafting the proposal for over a year. The group, which includes representatives from Vidler Water Company (now a subsidiary of DR Horton), Resource Concepts Inc., and Water Asset Management, among others, are accused by GBWN of trying to establish new bureaucratic layers to limit meaningful public engagement and co-opt lawmakers with industry propaganda.

GBWN claims that the proposal would create a “Blue Ribbon Task Force” hand-picked by the governor, a “Water Commission” to oversee the State Engineer, and a “Water Caucus” for lobbyists to “educate” legislators. Critics argue these changes would undermine the existing system, where the public can appeal to courts and hold regulators accountable.

The proposed overhaul has sparked controversy, with GBWN accusing proponents of prioritizing corporate interests over the public goodOpens in a new tab.. In particular, GBWN points to a statement in the proposal that laments the broad definition of “public interest” in the statute, suggesting that decisions based on this principle are “unsupportable under the law.” GBWN argues that this statement reflects a disregard for environmental concerns, senior water rights, and the needs of rural communities.

GBWN also highlights a recent Nevada Supreme Court ruling in Sullivan vs. Lincoln County Water DistrictOpens in a new tab., which affirmed the importance of considering public interest in water rights decisions. The ruling upheld actions by the State Engineer to protect against over-allocation and impacts on senior rights holders, dealing a blow to Vidler and Lincoln County’s plans to develop Coyote Springs, a massive project north of Las Vegas.

GBWN calls on lawmakers to reject the proposed overhaul, arguing that it would undermine the only safeguards to protect Nevada’s water resources. The organization urges the public to remain vigilant and oppose efforts to weaken public participation and oversight in water rights proceedings.

Image:

Great Basin in NevadaOpens in a new tab.. Brynn, March 2009.  Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Deborah

Since 1995, Deborah has owned and operated LegalTech LLC with a focus on water rights. Before moving to Arizona in 1986, she worked as a quality control analyst for Honeywell and in commercial real estate, both in Texas. She learned about Arizona's water rights from the late and great attorney Michael Brophy of Ryley, Carlock & Applewhite. Her side interests are writing (and reading), Wordpress programming and much more.

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