Water use allocations make sense for Nebraska’s future generations

Water use allocations make sense for Nebraska’s future generations

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Isn’t Nebraska something? Whether you were born and bred here, or were lucky enough to move into the area, you learn pretty fast that there’s a lot to love about the Cornhusker State. Two of the things that make our state special are our abundance of natural resources and our ability to use those resources to produce such agricultural products as corn, soybeans, wheat, beets and more.

That said, there’s been a lot of discussion in recent years about how we use those resources, and whether they’ve been overused by the nation’s third largest ag producer. More specifically, regional natural resources districts have taken steps within the past 10 to 15 years to allocate the use of water as a proactive measure to conserve water-table levels in the state.

We believe this is a good idea.

Over the past 50 years, groundwater levels in Nebraska have primarily remained static. This is because of several factors, including favorable precipitation for most years and efforts by the state to regulate the use of water for agricultural purposes. It’s important to remember, however, that just because water table levels have remained intact over that period of time, there have been times of drought, when those levels did decline.

Efforts to preserve groundwater levels are a sensible, proactive approach to maintaining water supplies for ag production today and into the future. In other states, like Texas or California, where groundwater use is not as regulated, ag producers are left to determine their own usage; however, when groundwater supplies run short, those states reserve the right to drastically restrict or even prohibit use altogether.

Setting regulations on annual usage is a measured approach to addressing a problem that might not be an issue today but certainly could be in the future.

There are people in the ag production industry in our state who would argue that restricting groundwater use limits crop yields and hurts the economy. While we can certainly respect and understand that point of view, we believe that as a natural resource, groundwater usage must be managed for the good of the whole population, not only for us today, but for future generations of Nebraskans.

Overuse of groundwater resources could result in a significant drop in water levels during drought years, if not managed properly, and under those critical circumstances, the only viable options for state officials would be to prohibit use. While regulated water usage may be an understood frustration for ag producers, the potential for prohibited water use could be ultimately devastating to our state, its economy and future ag producers.