U.S. Water News Online
ALMA, Neb.-- Nebraska faces falling out of compliance with
a multistate compact dictating consumption of water from the
Republican River based on usage the past two years.
Nebraska exceeded its water allocation by an average of 31,000
acre feet over that period, according to unofficial numbers presented
at a meeting.
"It's a big number when you consider what we would have to do to
make it up," Ann Bleed, deputy director of the Nebraska Department of
Natural Resources, told the Lower Republican Natural Resources
District Board of Directors.
The usage figures are unofficial until Nebraska, Kansas and
Colorado water commissioners accept them.
The problem may only get worse.
Bleed said a groundwater model developed by the three states in
the compact indicates that under current water use and weather
patterns, Nebraska could be overusing its compact allocation by
50,000 acre feet by 2030.
"The drought is a big part of the problem," she said. "But it
boils down to the fact we have to cut the number of acres being
irrigated, without damaging the economy."
Retiring more acres from irrigation will help, but the Legislature
will have to be asked to pump in some money to pay for it, Bleed
"Personally, I think we have to do the best we can to cut
consumption and then make the best case we can to get help from the
Legislature to pay for retiring more acres," Bleed said. "We're in
this together. That's why we have a joint integrated management plan
and why we have to jointly convince the Legislature that this is a
The 1943 compact allocates the annual virgin water supply in the
Republican Basin, with Nebraska getting 49 percent, Kansas getting 40
percent and Colorado using 11 percent. Compact compliance now is
based on a five-year accounting, which started in 2003.
Bleed said once the shortfall is made official, and continues for
five years, Nebraska would be found to be out of compliance with the
compact. That could result in Nebraska being ordered to pay a penalty
or more tightly regulate its water usage, she said.
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