Moapa Band of Paiute Indians, SNWA Reach Accord on Water Right Applications

The Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) finalized an agreement recently with the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians (Tribe) resolving the Tribe's protests related to the SNWA's request to draw upon untapped groundwater supplies within Cave, Delamar, and Dry Lake valleys in Lincoln County. This accord comes on the heels of an agreement reached earlier this week between the SNWA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the National Park Service.

The SNWA's applications in the three basins total 34,752 acre-feet per year. A portion of any water permitted to the SNWA by the Nevada State Engineer in those basins will be transferred to Lincoln County under a separate agreement. In addition to the Tribe's groundwater rights -- which are within the same flow system but not in the Cave, Delamar or Dry Lake hydrographic basins -- it holds a lease for surface water rights to the Muddy River, as well as additional groundwater applications pending before the Nevada State Engineer. The Tribe also has claims to federally reserved water rights pursuant to a settlement agreement awaiting federal approval.

Under the agreement, the SNWA agreed to several measures should the Tribe's water rights be harmed, including but not limited to: reducing or ceasing groundwater withdrawals, augmenting regional groundwater tables, or other mutually agreeable actions. The SNWA also agreed that while the Tribe is not a party to the recent agreement with the federal agencies, the SNWA will share access to data, reports and other analyses related to the basins being monitored as part of that accord.

With those assurances in hand, the Tribe agreed to withdraw its protest to the SNWA's applications at the upcoming water rights hearing before the Nevada State Engineer, scheduled to begin Feb. 4.

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