Letter to the Editor

Thoughts on water

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Dear Editor,

Over the last several weeks, I have been very interested to observe various opinions about our water use situation in western Nebraska.

The issue is very basic. On the logical, scientific side of the issue is the foundational fact that our water resources can originate in only one way: natural precipitation, no matter where in the Great Plains area, or any inland venue for that matter, we may reside.

On the political side, the issues become battlefields as we attempt to fairly allocate the resources, ground water and surface water, among all the water users, domestic, agricultural, industrial, etc.

Surface water quantities are regulated by amounts from precipitation (rain and snowstorms) and from springs (outflows from groundwater aquifers). 

Ground water is replenished over a more extended period from natural precipitation and from rivers and streams.  

Therefore, surface water quantities are impacted by the level of the water tables in the groundwater aquifers, and vice-versa.

This scientific truth makes necessary the regulation of water use, both from rivers and streams and pumping from the groundwater aquifers, if we are to provide any protection of both resources for use by future generations of Nebraskans.

A truly balanced and stable water policy would logically be one that allocated among water users only that amount that nature provided via precipitation over a period of time. 

Measured use from ground and surface water reservoirs could accomplish that goal.

Our current generation faces the unpleasant task of trying to correct the impacts of overuse of our water resources, when, to the best of my knowledge, all of the water sources are currently being depleted faster than they can be replaced.

I believe that the possibility of a supplemental water supply from outside of our Republican River basin is a political impossibility, since the Platte River system is also over appropriated, witness the severe problems in northeast Colorado.

Extremely large sums of money would help lessen economic impacts and help make transitions to alternative supply and management systems, but no infusion of capital will make more water available, barring desalination or recycling.

I harbor no thoughts that legislation will provide more water or water sources, but it can provide a structure in law ways to fairly allocate our limited and precious resource.


Sen. W. Owen Elmer


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