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Water for Wildlife, Not Coyote Springs and Vidler

The Nevada Supreme Court dropped a major ruling in the saga regarding the Lower White River Flow System on Thursday, setting a new precedent for managing groundwater flows and protecting wildlife.  

The ruling comes after years of haggling between every interest group one could imagine: The State Engineer, SNWA, mines, power plants, tribes, irrigators, waste management, small municipalities, developers, environmentalists, the LDS church, and the Lincoln County-Coyote Springs-Vidler cabal. The battle began after the State Engineer issued order 1309, setting a new multi-basin management regime to tackle over-appropriated, over-pumped basins that have hydrologic connections. A bevy of interests started suing the state, which led to a district court opinion that ultimately led to the NV Supreme Court appeal.  

In short, this decision gives the State Engineer clarity that groundwater and surface water systems are connected. It also ensures that the state engineer has a duty to keep water in rivers, streams and spring systems to uphold the public interest and protect wildlife. The ruling also affirmed that the state engineer has broad management abilities when it comes to bringing basins back in balance.

 One of the major outstanding issues is the case will be remanded to a district court to address issues of water availability in the Lower White River Flow System, the 6-basin groundwater system that ultimately flows into the Muddy River in the southeastern part of Nevada. This remand stems from pump tests and other hydrologic analysis by the state and the respective hydrologists for litigants conducted during the past 10 or so years. In other words, the same crew of people suing each other will now fight over how much water actually exists in that patch of the desert.  

This will have major implications for Coyote Springs, which believes that there is more water than what many parties believe exists.  

This is a strange bedfellows situation that will stir legislative and legal brouhahas for years to come. But the point is that, after years of fighting over the process, now parties will fight over the substance and begin to answer two of the hardest questions in any desert: How much water is left and how long will it last.  
GBWN has spent years warning about the perils of Coyote Springs. Today’s ruling is not the final nail in the coffin. But it is not the first nail either. Water from a single source, no matter the lines on a map, must be managed to protect senior rights. And now, with this ruling, wildlife is going to get a fair shake too.  

Read Daniel Rothberg’s analysis here. And, of course, you won’t want to miss Patrick Donnelly’s take.  


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