Water Rights, Inter-Basin Transfer

The Nevada State Engineer determines the limit and extent of the rights of claimants to water, the use to which water may be put, the quantity of water that is reasonably required for beneficial use, and where water may be used. 

Water Rights Application

In ruling on a water rights application, the State Engineer must consider four criteria:

  • Is the project feasible and not filed for speculative purposes?
  • Is the proposed water use in the public interest?
  • Is there unappropriated water available for the proposed use?
  • Will the proposed use impair senior water rights?

All water rights are considered real property, often worth several thousand dollars per acre-foot of water, and can be sold, traded, and leased. The place of use and type of use can be changed with the State Engineer's approval.

Attributes of Water Rights

The attributes of water rights in Nevada are (Nevada State Water Plan, 1999):

  • Beneficial use is the measure and limit of the right to the use of the water.
  • Rights are stated in terms of definite quantity, manner of use, and period of use.
  • A water right can possibly be lost by disuse, abandonment or forfeiture.

Contact Us

For a complete description of the requirements concerning claims of vested rights and water right applications and permits:


    A transfer of currently unused groundwater from one basin into another that has a projected water supply shortage is referred to as an "interbasin transfer".  Proposals for such transfers are often controversial, particularly from the perspective of the basin being approached to give up its water.  The 1999 Nevada Legislature, through Senate Bill 108, amended Nevada Water Law to add criteria governing interbasin transfers of water by adopting the following revisions to the provisions of NRS 533.370:

    In determining whether an application for an interbasin transfer of ground water must be rejected pursuant to the section, the State Engineer shall consider:

    (a) Whether the applicant has justified the need to import the water from another basin;

    (b) If a plan for conservation of water is advisable for the basin into which the water is to be imported, whether the applicant has demonstrated that such a plan has been adopted and is being effectively carried out;

    (c) Whether the proposed action is environmentally sound as it relates to the basin from which the water is exported;

    (d) Whether the proposed action in an appropriate long-term use which will not unduly limit the future growth and development in the basin from which water is exported; and

    (e) Any other factor the State Engineer determines to be relevant.
    Most of the policy statements outlined in the Nevada Water Law and Nevada State Water Plan reflect the philosophies of Nye County residents.  The State should have primacy in issuing water rights, and there must be a balance in the appropriation of water resources to protect the interests of rural communities whose populations do not afford them political strength in the state legislature (Nye County Water Resources Plan, 2004).