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The Bad Water Bills Are Dead in NV Legislature

As you are reading this, the Nevada legislative session is nearing an end. Many of our bad bills died a wonderful death. And there was one good surprise. This is unusual for us because we are usually fighting for our lives at the last minute. We’ll take a respite from eleventh-hour drama when we can get it. But in perspective, many wondered if our strange-bedfellows coalition could remain intact this session following our pipeline win. We proved that it could – leading the charge to defeat these bills and mobilizing a vast array of different stakeholders to join us. Our uncanny coalition lives!!!

AB5 (Dead) This bill would have limited how entities like GBWN can access the legal system while working through proceedings in the Office of the State Engineer. This legislation would have prevented GBWN from our Nevada Supreme Court victory in 2010 – a case that examined how the State Engineer violated the due process rights of Nevadans during the hearings on water rights applications for the SNWA pipeline. AB5 sought to eliminate important checks and balances from the executive branch. Good riddance.

AB354 (Dead) & AB356 as originally written (Dead) These two bills sought to throw away the tenets of the Prior Appropriations Doctrine and open the door to the commodification of water resources. They were GBWN’s priority kill-bills for the session because they would have allowed hedge funds, speculators, and profiteers to control water in ways that they currently cannot. AB354 was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It at-tempted to give the State Engineer broad discretion to create water markets with little oversight, no due proc-ess, and no access to the courts. We can already have water banks in Nevada. This dangerous bill vanquished current protections offered under the law, eliminated beneficial use requirements, fast tracked inter-basin transfers, and erased priority date.

AB356 would have legitimized speculation by allowing entities to sit on their water without putting it to beneficial use in the name of so-called conservation. It also removed important significant due process protections and fast-tracked inter-basin transfers. This iteration of the bill died. But the SNWA gutted it with an amendment to mandate the removal of all non-functional grass in Las Vegas (Think business parks and ornamental grass in medians). The amendment will save billions of gallons of precious Colorado River water annually – as long as developers don’t use it to invite more Californians to live in Nevada’s patch of the Mojave Desert. No matter what happens, we support the amended version of AB356.

SB155 (Dead) The bill sought to change the require-ments for appointing the state’s top water official. The bill would have made Nevada’s qualifications the weakest in the Mountain West by removing the require-ment that the leader of the Division of Water Resources is a licensed Professional Engineer (PE). The bill would have still let PEs be in the running for the job but the bill used broad, undefined language as the new criteria.

SB149 (Unfortunately Dead) The bill would have al-lowed local government entities to create groundwater boards in a designated basin. Right now, only a governor can approve a groundwater board in a designated basin. We believe that local entities should have a greater say about the water that exists in their community. The need for this bill arose out of an unprecedented effort by the State Engineer last summer to designate 58 basins in one swoop – without warning to local communities. The need, the lack of outreach, and the desired outcome by the state were all called into question during that process – which has been ground to a halt after threats of litigation. We hoped that SB149 would promote more collaboration and fewer threats of lawsuits. But state water officials didn’t like that idea. Go figure.

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