Focal Areas

Western Water Management

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Through a portfolio of strategic collaborations with other organizations, the Nicholas Institute continues to provide leadership on improving the sustainability of water resource management in the United States. In the western United States, we are improving water resource management in Nevada by designing and pilot testing a blueprint for “unbundling” water rights—that is, reforming the prior appropriation system so that shares in water rights can be easily traded, including with environmental stakeholders, and so that water resources can be managed sustainably for the benefit of all rights holders and the environment. 

Out of this project came the report, Blueprint for Western Water Reform of Rights and Management. This report explains the concept of "unbundling" water rights and makes the case for pilot testing of a new water rights system in two Nevada sites: Diamond Valley and the Humboldt Basin. 

The intent of the blueprint is not to improve water management in Nevada alone, but to set the stage for reform throughout the West and ultimately throughout the United States. In the absence of deep examination of water rights management, some regions such as the Southeast remain unready for the major changes in hydrological conditions that climate change is likely to bring about.