Nevada’s water rights laws serve the people of Nevada by managing the state’s water resources in a fair and equitable manner. Such statutes are codified in Chapters 533 and 534 of the Nevada Revised Statutes. These include provisions for irrigation, mining, recreational use, commercial and industrial use, and municipal uses.
Under Nevada law, water is considered to belong to the general public regardless of whether it is above or below the surface.
Because there is no private ownership of water, water rights are a right of use. All water uses require obtaining water rights, with the exception of private wells, rain barrels, and guzzlers (gravity-fed catchments that gather rain water).
Regulation of water rights is administered the Office of the State Engineer under Nevada’s Division of Water Resources, which is part of the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
The Water Rights Section of the Nevada Division of Water Resources is responsible for reviewing and approving water rights applications and permits.
This includes both applications for new water rights and requests for changes to existing water rights. When determining whether to grant water rights to an individual or entity, the Water Rights Section considers multiple factors, such as giving priority for water rights established in priority of earliest use and emphasis on putting the water to a useful purpose.
A permit is granted if there is sufficient evidence in the application to allow use while the water right is perfected. However, a permit is only preliminary and can be canceled at any time.
Once a water right has been perfected, a certificate is issued. It is important to remember that a certificate may be canceled if the water ceases to be put to beneficial use for 4 or more consecutive years.
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