Utah/Nevada Snake Valley Agreement
In 1989 the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) submitted water rights applications in five hydrographic basins (Spring, Snake, Delamar, Dry Lake, and Cave valleys) as part of a proposed project to develop a water conveyance system through Clark, Lincoln, and White Pine counties. The purpose of the project is to convey up to 155,000 acre-feet per year (afy) of groundwater from Lincoln and White Pine counties to help meet Southern Nevada’s water needs. Of this amount, up to 122,000 afy would be developed by SNWA and the remaining capacity would be reserved for Lincoln County. Population growth, drought, Southern Nevada’s reliance on the Colorado River, concerns about the effects of climate change, and other circumstances are among the reasons that SNWA is seeking to diversify its water resources portfolio to meet water supply obligations. An Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is currently being prepared for this right-of-way.
In 2004 the Lincoln County Conservation, Recreation, and Development Act (P.L. 108-424) was signed into law. A portion of the Act requires the states of Nevada and Utah to reach an agreement regarding the division of water resources for any groundwater basins located within both states prior to any transbasin diversion. In response to this requirement, the two states negotiated a Draft Agreement, which was released for public review on August 13, 2009.
Utah/Nevada Snake Valley Agreement
The Agreement addresses several issues and is very detailed. The following is s summary of the major provisions:
Available Groundwater Supply
The Agreement defines "available groundwater supply" as the total amount of groundwater available for appropriation and use on an annual basis from the Snake Valley groundwater basin. It proposes that available groundwater supply in Snake Valley is 132,000 afy, based on best available data. The two states equally divide this groundwater, and the table below provides the allowed amounts of consumptive use (depletion) of groundwater.
|Allocated||Water set aside for existing rights with a priority date prior to October 1989|
UT: 55,000 afy
NV: 12,000 afy
Water available to the State Engineers of both states to appropriate
in accordance with the laws of their respective jurisdictions
UT: 6,000 afy
NV: 35,000 afy
|Reserved||Water the State Engineers may grant when and if reliable data is gathered indicating this |
water can be safely and sustainably withdrawn without impacting other water rights holders
UT: 5,000 afy
NV: 19,000 afy
Hearing Schedule for SNWA's Snake Valley Applications
The NSE originally scheduled the SNWA Snake Valley water applications hearing for September-October 2009. In Spring 2009, SNWA requested a one-year extension. The NSE requested feedback on this delay from the protestants, and after reviewing the responses issued Interim Order 3, which extended the hearing date to fall 2011. However, the UT/NV Snake Valley Agreement provides that the NSE will not schedule a hearing for SNWA's Snake Valley applications until after September 1, 2019. This 10-year period will be used to conduct additional studies and collect data on the Snake Valley aquifer and groundwater availability.
Identification and Mitigation of Impacts
The Agreement includes a review and appeal process under which existing water right permit owners who claim adverse impact from SNWA's pumping can seek remedies. SNWA also would establish and maintain a $3 million mitigation fund for as long as it has groundwater development facilities in Snake Valley. Appended to the Agreement is a plan between the State of Utah and SNWA (Snake Valley Environmental Monitoring and Management Agreement) that provides monitoring and management obligations and includes commitments for biological, hydrologic, and air quality monitoring, creation of an operation plan, and process for management response actions.
The states of Nevada and Utah held public hearings on the Draft Agreement and offered a public comment period. The comment period was originally scheduled through September 14, 2009 and was later extended through September 30, 2009. The comments, as well as other information relative to the agreement, can be viewed on the Utah Division of Water Rights website: http://waterrights.utah.gov/snakeValleyAgreement/snakeValley.asp
Impacts to the Groundwater Development EIS
In the Draft Agreement, the states identified 36,000 afy of water available for allocation in Nevada. Accordingly, BLM will analyze 36,000 afy as the maximum quantity SNWA could be permitted in Snake Valley at this time. The remaining 14,679 afy of SNWA's applications in Snake Valley would not be permitted unless the Nevada and Utah State Engineers agree that additional groundwater can be safely and sustainably withdrawn from Snake Valley. Thus, the remaining quantity of these applications is considered as a possible future action under the cumulative analysis in the EIS. The final Agreement identifies 35,000 afy for allocation in Nevada. The Final EIS will be changed accordingly.
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