U.S. Water News Online
LINCOLN, Neb. -- Attorney General Jon Bruning thanked the
state's natural resources districts for working to help solve the
state's growing water shortage.
"Water is life, both for agriculture and for the growth of our
state's economy," Bruning said in comments to the Nebraska
Association of Resources District's annual legislative conference.
Pressure on the state's 23 natural resources districts and the
Department of Natural Resources is coming from several directions.
That includes an ongoing drought, heavy irrigation pumping,
depleted rivers and streams and the possibility that Nebraska will
have to pay Kansas for using too much water from the Republican
Bruning praised the NRDs in the Republican River basin and
elsewhere for adopting management plans for their water resources.
A 2004 law allows the state to declare water resources in areas of
central and western Nebraska overappropriated and to work with
natural resources districts to craft integrated management plans.
"Extended droughts, like the one we've been in for the last six
years, make all of our jobs more difficult," he said. "We recognize
how difficult it was to make those decisions."
Gov. Dave Heineman told the group that cooperation among all water
users is vital.
"This drought has reminded us of several important lessons --
chief among them is that we cannot take this finite resource for
granted," he said. "While there is no way to know when the drought
will end, our best course of action is to continue working together
to address the challenges before us, with the long-term goal of
ensuring sustainable use and management of this most valuable of our
natural resources always in mind."
Heineman said the state is considering several options to help
send more water downstream to Kansas.
Negotiation to purchase water rights from Kansas is among those
options, he said.
In December, the Governor's Water Policy Task Force agreed that
voters should be asked to dedicate part of Nebraska's sales tax to
solving the growing list of water problems.
The task force is seeking legislative backing for a ballot measure
on the sales tax. Additional state money will likely be needed to pay
farmers not to irrigate land in some areas.
The 49-member body also decided to recommend guaranteeing cities
in areas of water shortage a minimum supply of water for the next 20
Ann Bleed, acting director of the state Department of Natural
Resources, has said she's optimistic about the task force's
recommendation because the cities and natural resource districts
Under the recommendation, cities would be guaranteed 200 to 250
gallons of water per person per day regardless of population growth.
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