Water Rights for Cash in Nevada

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Many landowners all over the state of Nevada are choosing to surrender their water rights​ in exchange for cash payments. The constant drought conditions combined with over pumping have depleted the groundwater that communities depend on, and many landowners have made the decision to sell their water rights rather than drilling a new well or extending an existing well. 

The Voluntary Water Rights Retirement Program​ was allocated $25 million in funding and was created to purchase groundwater rights from private landowners in over-pumped, over-appropriated basins in several Nevada communities. The Central Nevada Regional Water Authority​ is an agency that proactively addresses water resource issues in this region, and they report that there are "25 over-appropriated groundwater basins, eight of which are also over-pumped."

As of May 2024, the program has "received commitments to retire more than 25,000 acre-feet of groundwater annually...which is about the average amount of water in both the Boca Reservoir and Donner Lake any given year." Water regulators have until September 2024 to enter into contracts and acquire water rights.

Most of the funding will likely go to Diamond Valley, NV which is the state's only "critical management area." This means that "the valley’s groundwater levels are rapidly declining, and groundwater rights holders in the area are required to create a plan to address over-pumping or risk losing their rights...If all sales go through, the state expects to retire about 30% of the annual groundwater yield in Diamond Valley," said Jeff Fontaine, Executive Director of the Central Nevada Regional Water Authority and the Humboldt River Basin Water Authority.

Due to the success of this limited program, water managers and conservation groups in the state have expressed the need to make Voluntary Water Rights Retirement a permanent, statewide program. 

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