An interim legislative panel is studying creation of a new agency to oversee acquisition of water supplies to meet the Reno area's growth.
The subcommittee is scheduled to meet Jan. 19, and has asked
Reno-area utility officials for their comments on the proposal some
say is needed to calm soaring prices for water rights.
The cost of water rights has skyrocketed from about $5,000 to
more than $50,000 per acre-foot in a little over a year.
Local governments typically require developers to acquire water
rights before new projects can be built. The cost of water adds to
escalating home prices, officials say.
Perry DiLoreto, a local developer representing a coalition of
builders, said more needs to be done to stabilize the water market.
His group lobbied for the interim committee study.
"Water is the show stopper" for the local economy, DiLoreto
said. "Without water, we're not going anywhere."
While people are getting rich selling their water rights,
DiLoreto said nothing is being spent to find new water sources. He
said a new government entity could seek authority for a transfer
tax to help build a fund.
Steve Bradhurst, Washoe County water resources director, said
the legislative committee, led by State Sen. Mark Amodei, R-Carson
City, wants the proposal to be a template for other counties such
as Lyon and Storey.
Bradhurst said one option would be a committee of all local
water utilities modeled after the new flood control steering
committee. The committee would have to reach consensus to recommend
actions to the county, which he said could take advantage of the
county's large bonding capacity.
Another option would be to create a new agency similar to the
Southern Nevada Water Authority, an independent board that provides
water resources and conservation programs to seven utilities in
Clark County. It is a joint powers board, where all entities have
to agree on actions taken.
A major policy question, Bradhurst said, is whether private
industry or government should be providing new water supply
Bradhurst said a new government entity could impose impact fees
to fund water projects. In addition, he said a government agency
could round up the last water rights available in the Truckee
Meadows, do title searches and send them to the state engineer's
office for approval.
Bradhurst said about 30,000 acre-feet of river water rights
remain available for development, but they are fractionalized,
ranging few acre-feet to a fraction of an acre-foot.