Aerial view of agricultural fields in Diamond Valley, with a mountain range in the background.
Diamond Valley Aerial view of agriculture in Diamond Valley © Chip Carroon/TNC


New Study Published on Feasibility of Retiring Groundwater Rights Coupled with Agrivoltaics in Diamond Valley

Report explores the costs and benefits of converting agriculture to solar farms concurrently with water rights retirement.

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With proper planning and some additional infrastructure, agrivoltaics and water rights retirement could be beneficial to simultaneously implement in Diamond Valley, according to a new report published by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in partnership with Eureka Conservation District and Eureka County. In the study, “Resolving Groundwater Overuse: Feasibility of Agrivoltaics Coupled with Groundwater Rights Retirement,” the partners explored the viability and socioeconomic benefits and tradeoffs of retiring groundwater rights while at the same time implementing agrivoltaics (agriculture located adjacent to or underneath solar panels).

In 2015, Diamond Valley was designated as a Critical Management Area, and the community developed and implemented a groundwater management plan (GMP). The goals of the plan include stabilizing groundwater levels, preserving the economy and culture of Diamond Valley and maximizing viable uses of private land. Due to planned reductions in irrigated water use, some farmland will be coming out of production. As the GMP is implemented, stakeholders are figuring out how the economy and culture of Diamond Valley can continue to thrive with less water.

Retiring groundwater rights is something that has been considered in Nevada as a tool for reducing groundwater overuse. “Diamond Valley is a place where there could be folks who would voluntarily retire their groundwater rights if there was a groundwater rights retirement program,” said Laurel Saito, Nevada water strategy director for The Nature Conservancy.

In fact, several water right holders in Diamond Valley have applied to retire their groundwater rights under the Nevada Water Conservation and Infrastructure Initiative, a one-time opportunity using American Rescue Plan Act Funds. “But,” Saito said, “it is important to think about what will be done with the land when irrigation is removed.”

A possible strategy to achieve multiple goals in the GMP is to retire private property groundwater rights while at the same time transitioning all or portions of formerly irrigated agricultural lands to photovoltaic solar farms.

“These are two of the biggest issues in the West right now: the renewable energy buildout and the overall water scarcity, groundwater in particular, for Nevada,” said Peter Gower, The Nature Conservancy’s Western U.S. and Canada Division climate and renewable energy director. “This study explores a possible solution that could address both while still allowing communities to thrive.”

“Water rights retirement would assist in more quickly meeting the ultimate objective of the Diamond Valley Groundwater Management Plan of stabilizing drawdown of the water table,” said Jake Tibbitts, natural resources manager for Eureka County. “Agrivoltaics is a land use that could be a natural fit and an incentive for the valley to transition to. It could assist in meeting alternative energy goals while including an agricultural component and providing another value-added economic opportunity for landowners.”

The study consisted of two phases: 1) conducting a situation assessment to get substantive input from affected stakeholders and 2) looking at the technical feasibility of retiring groundwater rights while transitioning agricultural land to solar farms.

Some key findings from the report:

Groundwater rights retirement. It is essential to establish a fair and robust system to retire groundwater rights that conserves water. Due to limited available data, complex analysis using multiple approaches will be required to come up with valuation for groundwater rights in Diamond Valley.

Solar development and grid interconnection potential. Diamond Valley receives enough sunshine that utility-scale solar is both economically and technologically feasible. However, transmission capacity is a limiting factor due to existing infrastructure and competing projects, even with the proposed Greenlink North powerline. The terms of a solar lease between a landowner and developer are important for protecting landowners from financial risks.

Agrivoltaics in Diamond Valley. Agrivoltaics can provide diversification of income for farmers in Diamond Valley. Most soil types currently under irrigation in Diamond Valley are well-suited for the establishment of vegetation that can subsist and persist on precipitation alone.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in more than 70 countries and territories, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit or follow @nature_press on Twitter.