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Nevada water rights bill raises concerns over “water banking”

Nevada Legislature
Nevada Legislature(Gurajpal Sangha)
Published: Apr. 5, 2021 at 10:57 PM PDT
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CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - Rural water users are panicking over a proposal to create a market for the sale and purchase of water rights in Nevada. A Monday legislative hearing about so-called “water banking” proposals pitted state water bureaucrats against a coalition of farmers, conservationists and rural officials who were unconvinced by arguments that the concept would encourage conservation.

Nevada State Engineer Adam Sullivan said water banking would encourage conservation by offering water rights holders an option beyond using, abandoning or selling their allocations.

Opponents argued creating a market would lead to water being exported from rural areas and potentially financial speculation.

Throughout the West, rural water users have been pursued by New York-based hedge fund Water Asset Management, which has reportedly purchased water rights from farmers in central Nevada’s Humboldt River basin, in Colorado’s Grand Valley and in central Arizona.

Nevada Department of Conservation & Natural Resources spokesperson Samantha Thompson said the proposal, which was submitted by the Governor’s Finance Office on behalf of the state division of water resources, wasn’t geared toward a particular basin or seeker of water rights.

Deputy Administrator for the Nevada Division of Water Resources Micheline Fairbank said she wasn’t aware of any hedge funds seeking to use water banking frameworks for speculation.

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