Conjunctive Water Management To Take Shape In Regulations For Humboldt River Corridor

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U.S. Geological Service

The Nevada State Water Engineer’s office recently contacted Nevada Farm Bureau regarding the administrative rulemaking process that is underway to define how Humboldt River Decreed water rights and groundwater rights will be conjunctively managed. This administrative rulemaking process requires the need to obtain and consider the impact of a regulation on small businesses and this is the focus in current efforts.

As part of the evaluation process for determining impact of the proposed rule, Nevada Farm Bureau has worked with the State Engineer’s office to set up a series of information meetings along the Humboldt River corridor. Farm Bureau members have been contacted to participate in these meetings and the general public are also strongly encouraged to attend/participate as well.

The meetings are all scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m.

· Monday, July 17, 2017…Lovelock Community Center, Lovelock

· Tuesday, July 18, 2017… Humboldt County Cooperative Extension Office, Winnemucca

· Wednesday, July 19, 2017…Battle Mountain Civic Center, Battle Mountain

· Thursday, July 20, 2017…Elko County Conference Center, Elko

In the initial form of the preliminary regulation, the plan is to use the amount of impairment each groundwater well has on Humboldt River surface water rights. The mitigation would take the form of an annual financial assessment to be paid by each groundwater well to make the senior surface water right owners whole for their loss of water. Groundwater wells are junior water rights to the senior surface water rights and under Nevada’s prior appropriations law, the senior water rights cannot be impaired by junior water rights. This link will provide the “Preliminary Draft Regulations” being proposed by the State Engineer (This Link)

The conjunctive water management system will incorporate use of the findings of a four-year study by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Desert Research Institute, which is underway in the 34 groundwater basins that adjoin the Humboldt River corridor. This study seeks to identify which groundwater wells, on an individual basis, are connected to the surface water flows of the Humboldt River and the degree to which each well is interconnected with the river water. From the models established through this study, the impact of groundwater pumping from each well will be determined.

From the information provided by the State Engineer, the preliminary analysis indicates that groundwater pumping from 8 to 12 miles of the river would be assessed through this program. The exact amount of the assessment cannot be determined until the hydrologic studies are completed (at the end of the 4-year study) and an analysis of water valuation (dollars per acre foot) is established.

While the preliminary determination for the proposed regulation is likely to be a significant economic burden, the impact would be less than an alternative of elimination of groundwater pumping which impacts water in the Humboldt River.

In litigation brought forward by the Pershing County Water Conservation District and currently before the 11th Judicial District Court, initiated August 12, 2015 and amended in petition November 2, 2016, the court could rule the State Engineer to move forward with curtailment of groundwater pumping in 19 of the 34 groundwater basins. These groundwater basins would include:

Dixie Creek-Tenmile

Elko Segment

Maggie Creek

Boulder Flat

Lower Reese River Valley

Clovers Area

Paradise Valley

Winnemucca Segment

Grass Valley

Oreana Subarea

Lovelock Valley

In addition any groundwater right that depletes the Humboldt River, regardless of its priority, would be subject to curtailment.

Nevada Farm Bureau is working with the State Engineer’s Office to organize information meetings to discuss these issues and gather input on the effect of the proposed regulations. As these details are finalized, we will be mailing Farm Bureau members invites to attend a local meeting in their areas.

Along with spreading the word for these critically important meetings to all impacted Farm Bureau members, we hope that every effort will be made to have all groundwater well owners in the areas be made aware of what is taking shape and encourage strong participation at the local meetings.