Jim Valentine: Water is essential to real estate

Jim Valentine on Real Estate

Water is essential to life therefore it is essential to where you live. When you buy property in Nevada be sure you understand Nevada laws, policies, and procedures as they relate to water. Nevada is known for having the best western water law in the nation. It is based on the public trust doctrine which gives ownership to all water in the state, to the state. The public trust doctrine also gives the state of Nevada ownership of the land beneath all water in the state.
The state manages the water through the state engineer. There are processes by which you can acquire the right to use the water for irrigation, recreation, mining, domestic and other uses. The original process was that you applied for a permit to appropriate water. You then did improvements so the water could be put to beneficial use. When put to beneficial use you could get a certification for the water. Today, most basins are closed so there are no new permits being issued.
If you have surface water that was put to beneficial use prior to 1905, it is what is known as a vested right, not subject to all the rigmarole of the governmental oversight that came after the water laws were put into place. Dates for vested status on underground water are 1913 for artesian wells and 1939 for percolating wells. That is confusing for sure as one logically thinks artesian wells percolate water out of them without mechanical assist, but in this case, percolating means “underground waters, the course and boundaries of which are incapable of determination.”
Vested water owners should be aware that thanks to recent legislation they must claim their vested water by Dec. 31, 2027, or it will not be yours. If you have springs on your property that have been used for eons, be sure to get your paperwork filed to keep those vested rights.
Water in Nevada must be put to beneficial use at least once every five years or it can be subject to forfeiture. Water rights have a priority status according to when they were first put to beneficial use, “first in time.” In surface water, that date is very important for as the river flow slows the older rights will drop off and not be able to receive water from the watermaster. Some people have supplemental groundwater rights for that happenstance which allows them to continue irrigating after they run out of river water.
If you are buying property that needs a well, be sure you can drill one. Some areas have restrictions on drilling wells that requires you to provide water rights to do so, something that is not typically required in most of the state. Also, if you are too close to a water system, too close to a water way, an existing septic, etc., you can have problems putting in a well. If you are too far away from a fire hydrant in Douglas County, you will need to put in fire suppression systems and water storage. Be aware of what you are buying.
If you are buying a property with water rights, be sure you are understanding what you are buying and that they are in good standing with the Division of Water Resources. You can also verify if there is a lien on the water when you are talking with the state. The engineers at the state office are friendly and knowledgeable. You can call them, and they will help you with water status, well logs, and other information.
Be sure the property you are buying has sufficient water to accomplish what it is you are looking to do, i.e., grow pasture for horses, add a guest home, put in a pond, etc. Do not assume you can do anything, verify everything so you can make your dreams a reality.
Water in Nevada is precious. Make sure you have what you need and that it is good water for your intended use.
When it comes to choosing professionals to assist you with your Real Estate needs… Experience is Priceless! Jim Valentine, RE/MAX Realty Affiliates, 775-781-3704. [email protected]