The Latest Byte Logo
Featured Image

3 NGOs in Nevada Tackling Water Accessibility: Bringing Hope to the Desert

By: Jocelyn Reeves

Twitter: @thelatestbyte

Post Date: 2023-08-15

3 Independent NGOs in Nevada Tackling Water Accessibility: Bringing Hope to the Desert

Here's a question that probably doesn't cross your mind every day: "What's the water situation in Nevada?" Considering the fact that the Silver State is the driest in the U.S., that's a question worth pondering over.

Water, the most precious resource in the arid West, is at the core of many public policies in Nevada and neighboring states. In Nevada, the prior appropriation doctrine governs water rights, allowing those who first put water to beneficial use to have a senior claim on it. Despite being the driest state in the U.S., Nevada has long maintained an agriculture industry thanks to this principle.

Public Policy on Water in Nearby States and Nevada

In California, the policy landscape is more complicated due to its blend of riparian and prior appropriation rights, as well as groundwater management issues. The state's Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), passed in 2014, aims to ensure the sustainable use of groundwater basins, a stark contrast to Nevada's less-regulated groundwater policy.

Arizona, on the other hand, relies heavily on the Colorado River for its water supply and has been working to secure long-term water sustainability through policies focused on conservation and reuse. The state’s Groundwater Management Act establishes Active Management Areas with mandatory conservation requirements, a strategy yet to be embraced by Nevada.

Statistically speaking, water scarcity is a growing concern in the West. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, as of 2023, over 40% of the Western U.S. is experiencing severe to exceptional drought. In Nevada alone, the Southern Nevada Water Authority reports that Lake Mead, the primary water source for Las Vegas, is currently at just 35% of its total capacity. California's Department of Water Resources states that the state's reservoirs are at 50% of their average capacity, and Arizona's water supplies have decreased by 19% over the past decade. The statistics are clear: the water crisis is not a future problem – it's happening right now.

In the political context, water sovereignty has become a contentious issue, particularly among Native American tribes, many of which hold senior water rights. Historically, these rights have been overlooked or inadequately addressed, leading to significant disparities in water access on tribal lands. However, recent court cases, such as the landmark Arizona v. San Carlos Apache Tribe case, have affirmed these rights, pushing the issue of water sovereignty to the forefront of water policy debates. As western states grapple with increasing water scarcity, the question of who gets to control and access water resources is becoming increasingly political and will likely shape the future of water policy in the region.

The spotlight is on three independent NGOs in Nevada that are setting new standards in water accessibility. They're pioneering, they're innovative, and they're turning heads.

First up, we have the Great Basin Water Network. Originally formed to combat a proposal to pump groundwater from rural Nevada to Las Vegas, this grassroots organization has evolved into a mighty player in the world of water conservation and rights. Their mantra? 'Water over development.' In numbers, the Network has rallied over 30 communities to protect their water rights, impacting tens of thousands of residents.

Their activities range from litigation and policy advocacy to community mobilization. They've successfully stalled or stopped several unsustainable water projects and continue to fight for responsible water policies at the local and state level.

The Network's mission is to protect and preserve the water resources of the Great Basin for current and future residents – human and wildlife. Their vision is of a Great Basin with clean, abundant water that is managed sustainably and equitably. Their core values revolve around sustainable management of natural resources, collaboration, and community empowerment.

Next, let's talk about the Nevada Conservation League. With an emphasis on policy advocacy and community mobilization, the league has been at the forefront of some of Nevada's most significant legislative victories for water conservation. To quantify their impact, they've successfully passed over 20 pieces of conservation legislation at the state level in the past decade.

Their activities focus on influencing policy and legislation related to water conservation, clean energy, and public lands. They also work on mobilizing voters and raising awareness about Nevada's environmental challenges.

The League's mission is to protect and enhance Nevada's natural environment through political action. Their vision is for a sustainable Nevada that values clean air, clean water, and access to public lands. Their values revolve around environmental justice, community engagement, and political action.

Finally, there's the Walker Basin Conservancy. This group's mission is to restore and maintain Walker Lake while protecting agricultural, environmental, and recreational interests in the Walker River Basin. Their efforts have led to an increase of 20% in the lake's level since their establishment.

The Conservancy’s activities are centered around land and water stewardship, with a focus on restoring Walker Lake’s ecosystem. They oversee several programs aimed at preserving and enhancing the Walker River Basin’s natural resources.

Their vision is of a balanced Walker River Basin where the agricultural heritage, community needs, and a healthy Walker Lake and river coexist. Their core values revolve around collaboration, scientific excellence, and long-term sustainability.


From the northern reaches of the Great Basin to the bustling metropolis of Las Vegas, these three NGOs are proving that innovative solutions and tireless advocacy can make a world of difference. They're transforming the narrative of water accessibility in Nevada, and they're inviting you to be a part of the change.

Want to reach out and get involved? Here's how:

Great Basin Water Network: Reach out via their website ( or email

Nevada Conservation League: Contact through their website ( or email

Walker Basin Conservancy: Get in touch via their website ( or email

It's not just about the water - it's about building a sustainable future for Nevada, one drop at a time.

Share this article

Want to stay up to date? Join our newsletter!