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A small building housing a domestic well as seen behind a faux decorative well on a property in Pahrump on Thursday, March 15, 2018. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

Nevada’s top water regulator reversed an order Thursday on building new domestic wells in Pahrump, after a District Court judge in Nye County found that the state lacked authority to enforce the restrictions. The state is appealing the decision to the Supreme Court.

The action comes almost exactly a year after the state engineer placed strict restrictions on domestic wells that pump water from Pahrump’s aquifer, where there are more rights to water than there is water that can be used sustainably. The ruling stirred up a fierce debate in Pahrump about property rights that trickled into a highly charged Assembly campaign.  

Residents sued the state engineer, Nevada’s top water regulator, alleging that he did not have the authority to restrict drilling of new wells and lacked evidence to support the action. On Dec. 3, a District Court judge ruled in favor of the residents, requiring a reversal of the order.

Although the state has filed an appeal, the lower court required the order to be repealed five days after it was received by the state engineer. But the legal proceedings are far from over and the reversal of the order could be temporary. State attorneys also filed a stay on the ruling, and the state’s recension of the order said that it was “subject to ongoing legal proceedings.”

Earlier in the year, the state engineer had amended the original order to allow the construction of about 20 wells that were pending or planned when the ruling was first issued last December.

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