U.S. Water News Online
LINCOLN, Neb. -- Continuing heavy irrigation in the Platte
and Republican river basins could cost Nebraska more than $500
million, according to a new report.
The report was done by University of Nebraska agricultural
economist Ray Supalla for the governor's Water Policy Task Force.
He estimated the potential cost for complying with a water use
agreement the state signed in 1943 for the Republican River basin
could cost as much as $334 million. The cost for complying with a new
management plan for the Platte river, which is aimed at accommodating
both endangered species and the growing number of cities and farmers
tapping the stream, could reach $168 million.
His low-end estimate for both rivers was $110 million.
"The total state budget costs associated with reducing consumptive
use by the required amounts in both the Platte and Republican basins
depends primarily on the type of program which the state chooses to
use to achieve the desired results," Supalla said.
The 1943 compact allocated the annual water supply in the
Republican basin. Nebraska gets 49 percent, Kansas gets 40 percent
and Colorado gets 11 percent.
But Nebraska has been using more than its share.
Kansas filed a lawsuit in 1998, arguing that Nebraska breached the
compact by allowing the proliferation and use of thousands of wells
connected to the river and its tributaries along the state's southern
Nebraska argued that groundwater use was not regulated by the
compact, which also was signed by Colorado, because it was signed
before deep-well irrigation was used in the river basin.
The U.S. Supreme Court later approved the settlement of the
Nebraska did not have to pay money damages as a result of the
settlement, but it would be forced to if Kansas does not get its
share of the water.
Earlier this year, members of the Nebraska Bostwick Irrigation
District voted to sell their 2006 water allotment to the state --
which will send it down the Republican River to Kansas -- for about
The Bostwick initiative was one of several efforts launched by the
state to find enough water to balance the books with Kansas.
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