While water is a precious commodity anywhere, it is understandable that the use of water comes under careful regulation in a desert state like Nevada. For land owners, water rights in Nevada are unlike those in any other state.
If you purchase a piece of land in this state, whether for your personal use or for the development of commercial interests, you do not automatically gain the right to use any water that may pass through the land or water sources beneath the surface. Instead, you must apply for the right to use that water. You also have the right to dispute when someone else uses your water source without a permit or if the State Engineer denies your application for water rights.
Steps to applying for water rights
The application process for water rights is complex, but once you obtain the water rights to a piece of land, the rights are your personal property as well as being real property, which means you can convey the rights if you sell the land. If you are planning to build on a piece of land, you must first know whether you will have the right to use any water sources on that land. The application process generally follows these steps:
- You obtain the services of a water rights surveyor who prepares a map to support your application.
- You submit your application form and the prepared map to the State Engineer.
- The Engineer will publish your request for water rights weekly for 30 days in a local newspaper.
- Anyone who disputes your application may formally protest during those 30 days.
- At the end of 30 days, if no one has protested, the State Engineer begins evaluating your application.
The review of your application includes the consideration of many important factors, such as whether your plans for the use of the water will infringe on the rights of others, whether your water rights will negatively affect the interests of the public and if your proposed use of the water source will have a detrimental effect on the wells of nearby residents.
If the State Engineer denies your application, you have 30 days to appeal, and you would be wise to seek legal advocacy for that step. However, if someone with vested water rights protests your application from the beginning, you may not even get to this point in the process without the assistance of a strong legal professional with experience in Nevada water rights laws.