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Protecting Water Resources In Nye County
Nye County Water Policy
Nye County Water Resources Plan
Designated Basins in Nye County
Nevada Water Law
Nevada State Water Plan
State/Federal Regulations

State and federal law and policy establish standards for clean water, controlling growth in floodplains, and protecting the environment. While each of these goals is beneficial and consistent with the long term goals and values held by Nye County and its citizens, the immediate impact of the legislation is often limiting, particularly given that federal agencies either own or manage 98% of Nye County's land and water resources.  The following provides summaries of the major state and federal statutory, regulatory and legal constraints impacting water planning and management in Nye County (Nevada State Water Plan, 1999).


Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) - The SDWA is the primary federal law enacted enacted in 1974 to protect underground sources of drinking water from pollution, and to ensure the quality of public drinking water. The Act established a program for setting drinking water standards, a permit program for injection wells, and mandated a program of wellhead protection practices. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was responsible for implementation and enforcement of the SDWA.  In 1978, EPA granted primary enforcement authority to the State of Nevada.  Nevada's Safe Drinking Water Program currently resides in the State of Nevada, Nevada Division of Environmental Protection (NDEP) and is administered and enforced by the Bureau of Safe Drinking Water.  Visit the NDEP Bureau of Safe Drinking Water website at URL:  http://ndep.nv.gov/bsdw/index.htm for more information, including: private wells, Public Water Systems Regulatory Oversight, Regulations & Proposed Amendments, Source Water Assessment, and Nye County Public Drinking Water Systems.     

Clean Water Act (CWA) - The CWA is the primary legislative vehicle for federal water pollution control programs.  This act was established to "restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation's waters; protect fish and wildlife; and prohibit the discharge of toxic pollutants in quantities that could adversely affect the environment".  NDEP has been delegated the authority to implement programs of the CWA in Nevada.  Enforceable provisions include issuing National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits; technology-based effluent standards for point sources of pollution; and water quality standards.  NDEP also implements federally mandated programs for the management of non-point sources of pollution. 

The Nevada State Environmental Commission (SEC) has adopted regulations which define State programs to carry out the provisions of Nevada's Water Pollution Control Laws.  These laws, contained in Nevada Revised Statutes Chapter 445A (NRS 445A) establish the authority to implement portions of the SDWA and CWA and numerous state regulations that exist to protect, control, and restore the quality of Nevada's waters.  For example, NDEP issues Water Pollution Control Permits with zero-discharge performance standards for certain mining facilities, and State Ground Water Permits for infiltration basins, land application of treated effluent, large septic systems and industrial facilities (Nevada State Water Plan, 1999).  Visit the NDEP website at URL: http://ndep.nv.gov and learn more about the NDEP programs, including the Bureau of Water Pollution Controland the Bureau of Water Quality Planning authorities, permits and programs. 


The Endangered Species Act protects threatened and endangered plants and animals and their habitats.  The Endangered Species Act provides protection not only to threatened and endangered species, but also to the water resources that support the habitat for these, and other sensitive species.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) maintains a list of species, all of which are dependent upon water. The law prohibits any action that results in a "taking" of a listed species, or adversely affects habitat. USFWS has listed Nye County's protected species, which include 7 endangered and 10 threatened species.  Twelve of these species occur in designated critical habitats in Nye County. 

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, as amended is a basic charter for the protection of the environment.  All proposed federal actions affecting public lands or resources must be reviewed for NEPA compliance, and an environmental assessment (EA) or environmental impact statement (EIS) prepared containing statements of the environmental effects.  Any required NEPA document needs to consider the potential environmental impacts of the proposed action, including impacts to water resources associated with the saturated and unsaturated hydrologic zones.   

Federal Land Policy Management Act (FLPMA) of 1976, as amended, determines how federal land management agencies can allow the lands they administer to be used. Decisions related to possible risks to water resources must comply with the appropriate federal and state laws, and be consistent with BLM's multiple use responsibilities under FLPMA.

Nevada State Resource Protection Programs and Authority

State of Nevada Natural Heritage Program researches, collects, and analyzes information on hundreds of Nevada's sensitive plant and animal species. The Natural Heritage Program maintains lists of at-risk plants and lichens; at-risk animals; and watch-list plants and animals by county.  As of March 2004, there were 270 Nye County plants and animals included on the Nye County rare species list.  These are species that could qualify for listing as a threatened or endangered species in the future under current management and land-use situations.   

Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) administrator, under NRS 503.589, has the authority to enter into agreements with other entities for the conservation, protection, restoration and propagation of species of native fish, wildlife and other fauna which are threatened with extinction.  NDOW also manages more than 117,000 acres of Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) in Nevada. The primary management emphasis on WMAs is the protection of wetlands and waterfowl. The State Forester Firewarden, under NRS 527.300, has the authority to enter into agreements with other entities for the conservation, protection, restoration and propagation of species of native flora which are threatened with extinction.

The federal government has also established water security legislation and directives in recognition of the increased need to protect the nation's water supply and utilities from terrorist attacks. These include Homeland Security Presidential Directives (HSPDs) and the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act (Bioterrorism Act) of 2002.
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