Nevada Irrigation District seeks public input for groundwater policy
The Nevada Irrigation District is beginning to craft a policy that goes to the heart of water rights issues, and attempts to give well-drawers who believe their well is affected by canal encasement projects a standard procedure for resolving their claims.
According to the water district, the system of canals that bring water throughout the county can leak 10% to 30% of the water that flows through the system into the groundwater used by people drawing water from wells.
Water that seeps from leaking canals and into the groundwater of well-drawers belongs to the district, and not property owners, according to NID. Director Nick Wilcox said that property owners who benefit from canal seepage into their groundwater are stealing from the district.
“We’re essentially providing water to them for free,” Wilcox said. “It’s a form of theft.”
However, experts from the U.S. Geological Survey who were at a Tuesday workshop to explain vulnerability studies they’ve performed said there was no definitive way to determine if water that made its way into wells had come from canal seepage or other sources. They also pointed out that although at least 15,000 acre feet of seepage leaves the district system through canals, that doesn’t translate to a direct one-to-one gain for surrounding wells.
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While the district said it has faced criticism for not encasing more canals sooner and ensuring water conservation, other property owners have claimed that encasing canals near their wells would deprive them of water they depend on and feel entitled to use.
The district’s Tuesday workshop invited public input on the drafting of the policy, which will come back to the NID engineering committee before getting more public input and then heading to the district board for approval.
NID gave no specific timeline on when the issue would appear before the board.
The seepage policy issue stemmed from a larger discussion on canal encasement policy, which has been in the works for more than two years. The issue of seepage was pulled from the larger encasement policy in an attempt to separate the issues and get some policy in place sooner.
According to the district, having a policy in place for when a property owner feels injured by a canal encasement project would streamline the process of having canals reinforced, providing more water for everyone.
The current proposals under consideration would mean a well-drawer who thinks an encasement affected the water in their well would have a choice of becoming an NID customer and paying for canal water when it’s encased; eschewing the encasement project and paying for a percentage of water that the district’s canal seeps into their well; or putting a meter on their well to determine how much district water is used and must be paid for.
Only people who feel a canal encasement project has diminished the water available in their canal would be directly affected by the policy.
Suggestions from workshop attendees were taken and will be applied to draft policy proposals NID staff shares with the public going forward.
To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4229.
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