Good news for Nebraska in water battle with Kansas

There was good news this week for Nebraska in its dispute with Kansas over the Republican River Compact.

A special master appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Kansas might be entitled to five-million dollars, but not the 80-million it is demanding.  The two states have a couple of weeks to comment on the finding before it is forwarded to the Supreme Court.

Nebraska attorney general Jon Bruning was pleased with the draft report, but says he expects more legal wrangling as the drought lingers and water becomes ever more precious.

“I don’t anticipate that this is the end of the road. I wish we could talk more and litigate less, but this is the reality under which we live,” Bruning says.

“The old adage is, ‘whiskey’s for drinkin’ and water’s for fightin’.  It’s as precious as it gets.  I mean, water is life—and it means somebody’s ability to make a living or not.”

According to report on, the decision is especially good news for Republican Valley irrigators in that the special master denied Kansas’ requests for injunctive relief. That means their irrigation wells will not be shut off in order to comply with the 1943 Republican River Compact.

But the special master did determine Nebraska violated the compact in 2005 and 2006 by exceeding its water use by nearly 71-thousand acre feet. That finding prompted the five-million dollars in damages.

The article says Nebraska officials were bracing for an adverse ruling and a multi-million dollar penalty against the state.  It says a big question facing the state on such water issues is who should pay the tab: just the farmers who primarily use the water, or all taxpayers.

The Nebraska Radio Network contributed to this story.

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