Geothermal Water Use in Nevada
At a Glance
|Water Right Agency:||Nevada Division of Water Resources|
|Water Right Classification||Prior Appropriation|||
|Geothermal Right Classification:||(Mineral and water) Geothermal resources in Nevada belong to the owner of the surface estate, unless they have been specifically reserved by or conveyed to another person. Geothermal resources are severable from the surface estate much like a normal mineral estate in Nevada. The geothermal resource includes the natural heat of the earth, pressure and all dissolved or entrained minerals...excluding hydrocarbons and helium (NRS 534A.010).|||
|Is a Water Right Required to Pump Geothermal Fluids?||Under Nevada Revised Statutes 534A.040 only consumptive uses of water brought to the surface outside of a geothermal well are subject to the appropriation procedures of NRS 533 and 534 unless:
|Contacts/Agencies:||Nevada Division of Water Resources|
State Water Use Process
The state of Nevada defines geothermal energy and associated resources as: “the natural heat of the earth and the energy associated with that natural heat, pressure and all dissolved or entrained minerals that may be obtained from the medium used to transfer that heat, but excluding hydrocarbons and helium.” NRS 534A.010.
The definition does not expressly reference water or fluids. Additionally, the owner of the surface estate owns the rights to the underlying geothermal resources, unless the geothermal resources have been otherwise reserved or conveyed. NRS 534A.050.
Generally, the use of water in Nevada requires an appropriative right and only extends to the amount put to beneficial use. NRS 533.372. However, only consumptive uses of water brought to the surface outside of a geothermal well are subject to the appropriation procedures of NRS 533 and 534 unless:
- The water that is removed from an aquifer or geothermal reservoir to develop and obtain geothermal resources is returned to or reinjected into the same aquifer or reservoir; or
- Reasonable loss of water results from geothermal well testing or temporary failure of all or part of a system that removes water from an aquifer or geothermal reservoir, transfers the heat from the water and reinjects that water into the same aquifer or reservoir.
For ancillary water uses involved in geothermal development projects (cooling water, dust suppression, etc.), developers will likely need to obtain water through municipal or governmental supplies, private lease supplies, by purchase, or a new or changed water right. The Nevada Division of Water Resources (NDWR) administers the rules and regulations pertaining to water rights and should be consulted throughout any processes related to water rights and water access.
Purchased water rights must be conveyed by deed and recorded in the office of the county recorder of each county in which the water is applied to beneficial use and in each county in which the water is diverted from its natural sources. NRS 533.382. Developers who purchase or lease a water right must also file a Report of Conveyance with the NDWR.
Change of Use
If the developer intends to purchase or lease a water right that requires a change in the manner of use, place of use, or point of the diversion, the water right owner/lessor or the developer must submit a Water Right Change application to the NDWR and receive permission to change the use. NRS 533.325
Appropriation of Water
If seeking to appropriate water, the water must be available for appropriation. Developers may submit a Water Right Application to the NDWR. While applications to appropriate surface and ground water are largely the same, ground water applications may have additional requirements. For example, if the appropriation is for ground water within a designated groundwater basin, the NDWR must confer with the relevant ground water board. If the NDWR approves the application, the developer must construct works necessary to pump/divert the water, put the water to beneficial use, and file proof of both activities with the NDWR.
Local Water Use Process
Policies & Regulations
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"Water Use" is not in the list of possible values (Land Use, Land Access, Exploration, Well Field, General Construction, Power Plant, Environment, On Site Evaluation, Cultural Resources, Water Quality, Air Quality, Geological Resources, Aesthetic Resources, Waste & Hazardous Material, Water Access, Site Considerations, Transmission Siting & Interconnection, Plant Decommissioning, Biological Resources, Land Use Assessment) for this property.
- NRS 533 Adjudication of Vested Water Rights, Appropriation of Public Waters (2012).
- NAC 534A Geothermal Resources (2012).