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Nevada Assembly considers emergency water permits

Matt Woolbright, Associated Press

Nevada Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, works in committee at the Legislative Building, in Carson City, Nev., on Tuesday, April 30, 2013. Goicoechea presented a measure Tuesday that would fix a system flaw revealed last year when ranchers tried to get water for their livestock during a drought and found out it would take a year to get permission. (AP Photo/Cathleen Allison)

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) -- Getting quick access to water when it's needed most is the focus of a bill discussed Tuesday by a Nevada Assembly committee.

Presented by Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, SB134 is a response to a system flaw revealed last year when ranchers tried to get water for their livestock during a drought in northeastern Nevada and discovered there was no quick way to get permission — even on their own property.

"There was no mechanism for you to drill a well and water that livestock even if it was on your property, because going through the normal process it would take you at least six months," Goicoechea said of Nevadans in need of water during a drought. "The livestock would either be dead, or you got to move or you were hauling water to them."

This bill creates an emergency permitting process available when state or federal officials declare a drought emergency in a region. The process could be completed within a week, but the permit is only valid for a year.

During that time, the land owner could go through the normal permitting process and attempt to secure permanent rights to the water. If the request for permanent water rights is not granted, however, the well must be plugged after a year.

For requests on private lands, once the user has a permit to access the water they could begin drilling a well immediately. On public lands, however, the bill would not be as effective at immediate relief because numerous federal procedures must be followed before a well is authorized.

The second portion of the bill deals with wildlife guzzlers — man-made contraptions used to collect and store rainwater and distribute that water to nearby wildlife through various drinking mechanisms, such as troughs.

The bill raises the standards of necessary fencing around the guzzlers to prevent animals from getting stuck in the fence and to help stop animals from accessing the water or mechanism in unintended ways. It also requires signs to be posted at each site saying who to contact if the guzzler is in need of maintenance.

No action was taken by the committee.