Nebraska, Colorado, and Kansas have come to terms on managing water from the Republican River.
The resolutions the three states signed cover water availability from the river in Colorado and from Harlan County Lake reservoir in Nebraska.
Jeff Fassett, Nebraska Department of Natural Resources director, says the deal provides more flexibility to use water.
“We think it does create more certainty and that’s what we hear so often from the water users in this state,” Fassett tells Nebraska Radio Network. “The frustrations that surface water people have is that they’re in a less predictable situation than people who drill the wells.”
Fassett says the state should know in a year or two if the agreement is working out as planned. Any of the states can walk away from the deal with a two year notice.
The irrigation districts are expected to have more leeway in their use of water and the sharing of water allocations.
“Sometimes they each have water that they’re willing to lease or share with the other districts,” Fassett says, “and a lot of that is made somewhat cumbersome by the existing contractual relationships.”
Past and ongoing legal battles are associated with water use from the river and groundwater wells that have dried up the river as well.
Fassett hopes the new plan will prevent future legal issues among the states and with irrigation districts.
“You see a lot of commitments about working together, bringing issues to the table before you go to court, all those sorts of things are very much embedded in this resolution,” Fassett says. “The states just aren’t interested in going back to court over some of this stuff. They’re better resolved amongst the decision makers in the states.”
The agreement sets clear forecasting guidelines for Harlan County Lake reservoir in Nebraska, and water management needs well before the next year’s irrigation season.
Fassett says his staff will be meeting with irrigation districts along the Republican River in the coming weeks to clarify how the agreement impacts them.