The Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN) is proud to announce that SB47 has been passed bringing Nevada closer to restoring our basins to a healthy state and ensuring the responsible management of our water resources for this and future generations.
For years PLAN has been at the forefront with GBRW and other advocates challenging the negative impacts of mining on rural and urban Nevadans. SB47 is a step in the right direction in that it allows us to track the water pumped during the mine dewatering process. Prior to the enactment of this bill, water pumped from the basin was considered “temporary in nature” and was not included in the basin appropriation.
The PLAN/GBRW Healthy Basins bill set out primarily to fill a hole in Nevada Law concerning the appropriation of water. The State Water Engineer by decree permitted water use for mining and milling to be “temperate in nature” and therefore not included in water basin budgets. A water budget is like a financial budget as it accounts for water that comes into and removed from the basin. The amount of water tied to mining water permits is excessive, and if this water is not accounted for, then potentially more water could be appropriated for use than is actually available. To protect water use, this bill was essential, and now that it has been signed by the governor, water use is protected by Nevada Law.
The State Water Engineer from now on must include permitted water whether considered temporary or not in basin budgets.
By law a mining company or another temporary water user cannot be permitted for more water than allowed by the water available in the water basin. If water use exceeds availability, the public can file in state court, which was not possible before, to protect and keep water levels sustainable.
Continued growth. The need for usage tracking.
Water in Nevada is precious. Manufacturing and tech industries are currently growing and slated to continue. We cannot afford to use water without tracking its usage. With the additional impact of climate change, longer, more unpredictable and more intense periods of drought are expected, and the importance of this victory is clear. SB47 is common sense reform that gives the State Engineer the tools and information to promote sustainable water allocation, which in turn promotes thriving agricultural communities and healthy ecosystems.
Digital transparency. Follow up.
The other aspect of Healthy Basins was to increase transparency on water permitting. This would allow anyone to go online, look up a permit and see how much water is being used. In addition, we requested that data on consumptive and nonconsumptive use be posted online. Unfortunately the transparency aspect did not make it to law due to heavy lobbying from the mining industry. The State Water Engineer did indicate that posting this data online does not require changes to Nevada Law since his officer has the authority to do this. We plan to follow up with the the State Water Engineer to affirm that the data is and will continue to be posted.
We believe it is fair to report and make available to the public how much water is used and how much is returned to the basin. In addition, we believe it is important that the permits granted for dewatering are included in the basin budget so that such permits can be proven to be beneficial within a reasonable time frame.
We hope that this is the first step to protect the land and livelihoods of our great state of Nevada.
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