Frequently Asked Questions


Dam Safety

Q: Who needs to file an application for a dam permit?

A: Any person who intends to construct, reconstruct or alter a dam that has a crest height 20 feet or higher, as measured from the downstream toe to the crest, or has a crest height less than 20 feet but will impound 20 acre-feet or more of movable material, must acquire a dam safety permit prior to construction. This provision does not pertain to United States Bureau of Reclamation or United States Army Corps of Engineer projects.

Q: If I don't meet the above permitting criteria, what do I do?

A: Any dam that doesn't meet the "20/20" criteria must still file a completed application form with the State Engineer's office prior to construction. The filing fee is not applicable unless a permit is required. The dam will still be assigned a number and tracked in our system. This information is needed so that engineers are better informed when they are out in the field and come across a structure that may or may not be a jurisdictional dam. Also, if there is a series of these dams on a stream system, the failure of one "small" dam could have a catastrophic effect on the dams in series downstream. Under unusual circumstances, a "small" dam may require a permit if so directed by the State Engineer.

Q: What about reservoirs that are essentially excavated holes in the natural topography?

A: A completed application form should be submitted prior to construction, however the filing fee will only be required if it is determined that a permit is necessary. The "20/20" rule applies to all structures above the natural contours. If half of a 50 acre-foot impoundment is below natural grade and the other half (25 acre-feet) is above the natural grade, a permit is required.

If the entire reservoir is below natural grade but there exists a 2 foot berm surrounding a 10 acre (surface area) pond, there is a potential to store 2 feet x 10 acres = 20 acre-feet of water, thus requiring a permit.

Q: Do I need to pay an annual storage fee for my reservoir?

A: Pursuant to NRS 533.435, only privately owned nonagricultural dams which store more than 50 acre-feet of moveable material are charged an annual fee. The storage fee is $100 plus $1 per acre-foot storage capacity. The annual storage fee request letters are sent out in September or October. Tailings facilities are considered to impound moveable material, thus will be charged an annual storage fee if greater than 50 acre-feet. For dams that are constructed in raises, i.e. tailing facilities, the storage fee is based on the impoundment as approved by the most recent issuance of an authorization to impound.

Q: Can a dam inspection be requested of the State Engineer's office?

A: Absolutely. Every high hazard structure should be inspected annually and followed up with a letter of findings and recommendations to the owner. If you're a high hazard dam owner, you should be getting information annually concerning the inspection. Significant hazard dams should be inspected every three years and low hazard dams every five years. If you are an owner of a dam in one of these three categories and haven't received a letter documenting a dam inspection and would like to have your dam inspected by the State, just call or write the Division of Water Resources at the following address: