Sustainability is key
The State of Nebraska did an excellent job of handling the compact issues with Kansas , however, Nebraska has a dismal track record of assuring equality for all Nebraskans in the Republican Basin.
Groundwater levels in the Upper Republican NRD (URNRD) have declined significantly since the widespread installation of irrigation systems began in the 1950s. These declines strongly correlate with the decline in base flow that used to flow into area reservoirs and the Republican River.
Why should we care? Because we, here in the Middle Republican NRD (MRNRD) are making up the difference. Either giving our water , like our surface water users did in 2013, or our dollars in taxes and lost income, or both.
To simplify terms , stream flow is all water from any source, and base flow is the portion of stream flow made up of ground water that flows into area creeks and streams from springs and seeps.
The obvious connection between declines in Groundwater levels in URNRD, and declines to Surface Water in the MRNRD is often downplayed by stating that much of the Republican river stream flow is derived from runoff and is not connected to groundwater. While there are many factors impacting stream flow and availability of surface water, groundwater decline appears to be largely responsible for the decline in base flow.
A 2006 report prepared for the Department of Natural Resources examined the average base flow for the Buffalo, Rock, Frenchman, and Stinking Water Creeks from 1950 to 1967 and 2000 to 2005. The authors found that average annual base flows in these four URNRD creeks have declined by 90.9 cubic feet per second (cfs) between the two averaging periods. This is equivalent to nearly 80 percent of the base flow declines in the entire basin.
Unfortunately it isn't likely that base flows from these creeks will return to the 1950 -- 1967 averages in the near future. In fact, base flows will continue to decline and compact compliance will be more difficult if we do not make significant changes. The State of Nebraska needs to develop a stronger water policy that ensures sustainable water supplies, equitable water distribution among irrigation and natural resources districts, and the preservation of as much existing irrigation as possible.
It is time to stop mortgaging our children's future on the backs of unsustainable water use. It is time to preserve our groundwater resources so we can maintain the economy for the entire basin, and pass our way of life onto the next generation.
When our candidates for State Office are telling us they believe in equality, sustainability, and protecting the economy, it might be a good idea to ask specifically what that means to them.