Department of Water Resources

Water Law Overview

Nevada's first water statute was enacted in 1866 and has been amended many times since then. Today, the law serves the people of Nevada by managing the state's valuable water resources in a fair and equitable manner. Nevada water law has the flexibility to accommodate new and growing uses of water in Nevada while protecting those who have used the water in the past.

Nevada water law is based on two fundamental concepts: prior appropriation and beneficial use. Prior appropriation (also known as "first in time, first in right") allows for the orderly use of the state's water resources by granting priority to senior water rights. This concept ensures the senior uses are protected, even as new uses for water are allocated.

All water may be appropriated for beneficial use as provided in Chapters 533 and 534 of the Nevada Revised Statutes (referred hereafter as NRS). Irrigation, mining, recreation, commercial/industrial and municipal uses are examples of beneficial uses, among others.