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Water law based on common good not archaic water rights explored at Nevada Drought Forum

Colorado River
Southern Nevada uses 32 billion gallons less water than in 2000 despite having 500,000 more people. Nevada governor Sandoval says Nevada is the best in the nation at conservation. This is not an exaggeration. Israel is also a leader. Both did it out of necessity.

“We are the best in the nation and maybe the world in water conservation,” Sandoval said. On a trip to Israel, another arid region, Sandoval said he was amazed by the innovation used to manage water.

“It made me wonder, are we doing all we can?” he asked.

One way to improve water use and conservation is to focus on the common good, a topic that was explored the the recent Nevada Drought Forum.

Existing water law is anchored on the principles of beneficial use and a pecking order that gives owners of the oldest water rights first dibs at the trough.

Those two concepts are coming under increased scrutiny. Some people suggest the “use it or lose it” criteria for water rights is at odds with the goal of rewarding conservation. Others question whether giving senior water right holders access to water at the expense of others in times of drought does not necessarily benefit the public good.

Even though the drought is severe, southern Nevada has water it is not using.

The authority board last week approved leasing 150,000 acre-feet of water to drought-parched Southern California for $44 million, and a new resource report said the water purveyor has enough water to support 1 million new residents in coming years.

“That is a compliment to Southern Nevada Water Authority,” the governor said. “It is one of the most efficient water systems in the world. That is a good problem to have.”

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