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Western States Water Council Ground Water in the West Conference Amarillo, TX December 3-5, 2003 Hugh Ricci, P.E. State Engineer

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MANAGING GROUNDWATER. Western States Water Council Ground Water in the West Conference Amarillo, TX December 3-5, 2003 Hugh Ricci, P.E. State Engineer Nevada Division of Water Resources. STAFFING. ~80 people in 3 offices – main office in Carson City ~60 engineers/technicians

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Western States Water Council

Ground Water in the West ConferenceAmarillo, TXDecember 3-5, 2003

Hugh Ricci, P.E.

State Engineer

Nevada Division of Water Resources

  • ~80 people in 3 offices – main office in Carson City
    • ~60 engineers/technicians
    • ~20 clerical/support staff
    • Seasonal help for water distribution
  • Hearing Section Chief is an attorney
  • 2 Deputy Attorneys General
bean counting
  • Receive ~100 applications per month
  • ~80% of the applications are changes of existing rights
  • Application No. 70000 was submitted in May 2003
  • An additional ~9400 vested and reserved claims
water law in nevada

Prior Appropriation Doctrine

  • First in time, first in right,
  • Beneficial use is the limit of the water right,
  • Use it or lose it


Riparian Doctrine

s e criteria for approving an application
  • 4 criteria
    • Water available from proposed source
    • Does not conflict with existing rights
    • Cannot prove detrimental to the public interest
    • Protectible interest in domestic wells - 2001
other important concepts
  • Supplemental Rights – two or more rights used together for an intended use.
  • Comingled Rights – where more than one source, e.g. s.w. and g.w. or g.w. and effluent, are used together simultaneously for an intended use
  • Preferred Uses – Manner of uses designated as such by the State Engineer, e.g. Municipal, Commercial etc.
domestic water wells
  • A water right application and permit are not required in order to drill a domestic well
    • Domestic purposes as defined under our statutes extends to culinary and household purposes, in a single family dwelling, the watering of a family garden, lawn and the watering of domestic animals
  • The maximum daily draught is limited to 1,800 gallons per day (2.02 acre-feet per year)

232 Individual Groundwater Basins of which 119 are Designated or Partially Designated

perennial yield
Perennial Yield
  • Can be defined as the maximum amount of ground water than can be salvaged each year over the long term without depleting the ground water reservoir
perennial yield11
Perennial Yield
  • Beginning in the early 1950’s, Water Resources and the USGS entered into a series of cooperative agreements whereby the USGS studied every basin and produced a reconnaissance report that estimated the perennial yield of that basin.
perennial yield12
Perennial Yield
  • Original analysis based on the Maxey-Eakin Method using precipitation-elevation data.
  • New method of analysis is called the ‘PRISM’ Method of determining precipitation. Greater perennial yields have been our experience with this method (2 to 3 times greater).

* 1.7 Million Acre – Feet

232 Groundwater Basins



* Perennial Yield of Valley-Fill Reservoirs

how did the basins get overdrafted
How Did the Basins get Overdrafted?
  • Some were already over appropriated prior to the USGS data available (keep in mind that P.Y’s are as low as 200 acre-feet).
  • New data changed PY’s
  • Popular thinking that not all rights would be put to their maximum beneficial use.
  • In the case of Las Vegas Valley, purposely allowed to overdraft (revocable) with the hope that infrastructure would eventually be in-place to deliver Colorado River water and the over pumping would be curtailed.
how did the basins get overdrafted15
How Did the Basins get Overdrafted?
  • On paper, some basins are ‘over appropriated’ but that may be due to the issuance of supplemental groundwater to existing surface water sources. Only over drafting in drought years.
  • Additional allocation of the source may be allowed based on the estimated recharge to the basin from irrigation (~30%)
carson valley
Carson Valley
  • PY is 45,000 AFA
  • GW permits total 100,000 AFA
  • 60,000 AF supplemental to SW (Carson River)
  • Actual pumpage in drought years is ~29,000 AF and ~20,000 in wet years.
las vegas valley
Las Vegas Valley

* PY of Las Vegas ValleyDOES NOTinclude secondary recharge from the 300,000 AF of Colorado River brought into the basin.

las vegas valley20
Las Vegas Valley
  • Of the pumpage, ~6000 AF are revocable
  • ~5000 AF are from domestic wells

Important to Note:

  • SNWA Cooperative Water Project (CWP)
    • Filed 146 applications in 1989 in 27 basins for the appropriation of 180,000 acre-feet of groundwater
    • Four permits have been granted
      • Virgin River – 130,000 afa
      • Garnet and Hidden Valleys – 2200 afa
      • California Wash – 2500 afa
    • Remaining 114 applications have over 3,000 protests
truckee meadows reno sparks area
Truckee Meadows(Reno/Sparks Area)
  • PY is 35,000 AFA
  • Permits issued slightly above PY
  • Sub-basin Problem
    • Mt. Rose Fan Area has ~ 18,000 AF appropriated in that one area.
    • Large concentration of domestic wells.
    • Only pumping ~4000 AF and experiencing severe declines in the water table.
mine dewatering
Mine Dewatering
  • Groundwater must be pumped in order to mine the ore body at great depths
    • Consumptive Use + Dewater was

~279,000 ac-ft in 2000


Gold Mining

Nevada ranks 3rd in the world in gold production behind Australia and South Africa.

Nevada’s gold reserves are over 75% of the total known U.S. Gold resources.

April of 2002, Nevada Mining

celebrated the production

of the 50 millionth troy ounce

of gold produced from the

Carlin Trend.

  • Designate ground water basins
    • Preferred uses
    • Allows the State Engineer to impose additional conditions and restrictions on water use e.g. well depths, meters, sanitary seals
    • A water right permit is required to drill a well (other than domestic) in a designated basin.
  • Forfeiture and Abandonment
  • Grant changes of irrigation use for consumptive portion only.
  • Permit Terms and S.E.’s Orders requiring meters on diversions.
  • Substitutive uses in the case of mine dewatering.
  • Exchange of treated effluent for potable water
  • T-Finite Term
  • Conjunctive Use through banking (TMWA)
  • Recharge
  • Have the ability to regulate pumping based on priorities
  • Monitor the Basins
    • Pumpage inventories
    • Groundwater level measurements
    • Public Input


Salt Lake


Las Vegas


carbonate aquifer32
  • Approximately 50,000 square miles in extent
  • The carbonate-rock sequences are believed to contain significant, but undetermined, quantities of ground water.
  • In 1984, the USGS proposed a 10-year investigation of the entire Carbonate Terrain.
  • It has been known since 1984 that to arrive at some reasonable understanding of the carbonate-rock aquifer system, substantial amounts of money would be required to develop the science, a significant period of study would be required, and that without some understanding development of ground water from the carbonate-rock aquifer system would be risky and the resultant effects could be detrimental to existing water rights and the environment.
carbonate aquifer33
  • In 1985, the Nevada Legislature authorized a program for the study and testing of the carbonate-rock aquifer system of eastern and southern Nevada. The program was a cooperative effort between the State of Nevada and the Federal Government. The overall plan for the program was to study the carbonate-rock aquifers of southern, east-central, and northeastern Nevada as separate phases of work, with a summary of findings to be prepared at the end of each phase. A summary report brought together results from more than 20 technical reports produced during the study.
carbonate aquifer34
  • Investigation of the carbonate-rock aquifer system is additionally complicated by factors including that:
  • Basic hydrologic data such as ground-water levels in the basin-fill aquifers and the carbonate-rock aquifers, reliable flow measurements for important springs and major streams are scarce or infrequently obtained in much of the area;
  • Secondary hydrologic and other data, such as hydraulic parameters, geophysical and geochemical, are lacking in many areas;
  • The geometry, properties, and boundaries of the carbonate-rock and basin-fill reservoirs are generally unknown, and definition of these properties can be expensive and difficult;
  • Climatic conditions today are inadequately defined (particularly at higher altitudes) and conditions during the development of the flow paths within the deep-rock aquifers and flow paths are even more uncertain;
carbonate aquifer35
  • Uncertainties and inaccuracies exist in current methods of estimating precipitation;
  • Uncertainties and inaccuracies exist in current methods of estimating ground-water inflow and recharge;
  • Uncertainties and inaccuracies exist in current methods of estimating ground-water outflow and evaporative discharge;
  • Only a small number of wells tap the deep carbonate-rock aquifer system;
  • Because there has been no significant historical pumping of ground water from the carbonate-rock aquifer system, ground-water models can only be used as a limited predictive tool for estimating the principle location and magnitude of the impacts of pumping ground water from the system;
  • Limited stresses on the water resources of the area under current development conditions allow hydrologists information only on the narrow band of system responses to natural conditions; and
  • The relationship between geothermal systems and the deep carbonate-rock aquifers and ground-water flow systems is not well understood.
carbonate aquifer38
  • S.E. issued Order 1169 on March 8, 2002
    • Stated that all applications pending and any new filings for water from the carbonate in the 6 basins in question, will be held in abeyance until further information is obtained by stressing the aquifer by those water right permits already issued from the carbonate.
    • Ordered a 5-year hydrologic study to be conducted during which at least 50% of the currently permitted water rights (~16,000 acre-feet) are pumped for at least 2 consecutive years. The cost of the study will be paid for by the 5 entities currently pumping from the carbonate aquifer.
carbonate aquifer39
  • S.E. issued Order 1169 on March 8, 2002
    • The S.E. will facilitate meetings between his office and the 5 entities concerning the scope of the study.
    • Requires each entity to exchange with each other on a quarterly basis, the rate at which water was diverted, total acre-feet diverted per month and monthly water levels measurements.
    • Within 180 days after the study period, a report must be filed with the S.E. as to the information obtained and any impacts seen to the groundwater or surface water resources of the carbonate or alluvial aquifers.
    • After the S.E. reviews the report, he will then make a determination as to whether he has sufficient information to proceed with ruling on the pending applications.

Thank You,Questions?