Las Vegas Desert
It is easy to forget that water is scarce in the desert when Las Vegas is just miles away. Photo by: O Palsson via Flickr, CC BY 2.0
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Know Your Well Water Before Buying in Las Vegas

Driving along the Las Vegas Strip, you will see plenty of dancing fountains and decorative waterfalls. It is easy to lose sight of the fact that you are in the middle of a desert where water management authorities remind us: “Be water smart!” That should include some understanding about well water in the area.

In the Beginning

For decades, shallow wells and springs throughout the Valley sustained homes and businesses. But as the population swelled, we outgrew these groundwater sources, and the Colorado River was pressed into service.

Today, Southern Nevada gets 90 percent of its water from the Colorado River (via Lake Mead), but the Las Vegas Groundwater Management Program says that there are thousands of private well owners still in operation, supplying the remaining 10 percent.

If you’re buying a home in the Valley, you’ll find that wells more commonly show up on older properties that tend to be a half-acre in size, or larger. But older homes on smaller lots located in outlying subdivisions may also have a well, in the form of a “community well” that is shared by the other homes in the area.

Daily Water Allotments

remember daily water allotments
It is important to remember homes using well water may have daily allotments. Photo by: Miika Silfverbergvia Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

These homeowners are all limited to drawing no more than their daily water allotments, which is 1800 gallons per day for a domestic well (supplying a single home), or 1000 gallons per day, per household, for a property that runs on a community well.

Before you buy a property with a well, you should schedule a thorough inspection of the system, and any potential leaks that can eat into your daily allotment – because they are strictly enforced. The Las Vegas Sun reports that state engineers began to crack down on non-compliance to these requirements in recent years, issuing fines, requiring returns of excess water use, and, in extreme cases, filing charges.

And purchasing increased allotments can be an expensive solution that, according to the Sun, can cost up to $30,000 per acre-foot.

So, what about acquiring new water rights or permits? Chances of hitting the jackpot at your local casino are probably better than obtaining a permit for a Las Vegas property with no previously issued water rights. Under Amended Order 1054, the Office of the State Engineer will deny applications to appropriate water filed after March 23, 1992. The Las Vegas Groundwater Management Program notes that exceptions are rare.

It’s also important to know that the majority of the Valley’s community wells hold “revocable” permits. This means that permits for these wells can be revoked if and when water can be furnished by a local water district or municipality. However, legislation passed in 1999 specifies how revocation can be enforced: If a municipal water line is within 180 feet of the permitted location and the existing well fails to such an extent that a drilling rig is necessary to restore the well’s function. After meeting the first two conditions, the Las Vegas Valley Groundwater Management Program must provide financial assistance for the well user’s cost of connecting to a municipal source.

You can look up permits and other water rights information on the state’s Division of Water Resources site.

Well Management

A few additional things to note if you’re buying a home with well water: All Valley wells have hard water, and many pump warm water. (If you’re considering buying a vacant property, know that an unused well can develop bacteria in the lines.)

All wells take a bit of management too. The Las Vegas Valley Groundwater Management Program offers safety tips for private well owners, including the suggestion of an annual water test, regular inspections of broken water lines, and the establishment of a 100-foot zone around your wellhead.

Check the State Bureau of Safe Drinking Water for quality concerns, testing services, and treatments; additionally, you may consider hiring an environmental testing service for analysis and recommendations on water softeners and reverse osmosis systems.

After all the regulations and environmental factors, the last word on well water still belongs to Benjamin Franklin: “When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.”

Guest blogger Lindsay Listanski is the social media manager for Coldwell Banker Real Estate, a leader in full service real estate sales.

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