Due to the state's arid climate and limited water resources, transferring water from one basin to another is not new to Nevada. In fact, the first interbasin transfer occurred in 1873, when water from Hobart Reservoir in the Washoe Valley Hydrographic Basin was conveyed to Virginia City, which is within the Dayton Valley Hydrographic Basin. Many interbasin transfers have been completed since then in nearly every region of the state.
In determining whether an application for an interbasin transfer of water should be approved or rejected, under NRS 533.370
the State Engineer must consider:
- Whether the applicant has justified the need to import the water from another basin.
- Whether a conservation plan has been adopted and is being effectively carried out, if the State Engineer determines that such a plan is advisable for the basin into which water is to be imported.
- Whether the proposed action is environmentally sound as is relates to the basin from which the water is exported.
- Whether the proposed action is an appropriate long-term use that will not unduly limit the future growth and development in the basin from which the water is exported.
- Any other factor(s) the Office of the State Engineer determines to be relevant.
The applicant may also work with the county from which the water is proposed to be transferred to develop a plan to mitigate adverse economic impacts of the transfer. If a plan cannot be agreed to, the county (with the approval of the State Engineer) has the option to impose an annual fee on the water transferred. The amount of the fee is defined in NRS 533.438
- Is there unappropriated water at the source?
- Will the use of the water under the proposed application conflict with existing rights?
- Will the use of the water under the proposed application prove detrimental to the public interest?
- Will the use of the water under the proposed application adversely impact domestic wells?
The chart below, adapted from the 1999 Nevada State Water Plan, shows interbasin water transfers throughout the state since 1873.