By Russ Pankonin, The Imperial Republican Co-Publisher
If the future of irrigation is going to thrive in the Republican River Basin, then the natural resources districts in the basin and the irrigators they represent need to find some common ground that is best for everyone.
Considering that the river basin runs more than 120 miles across the state, one can just image the differences in practices from one end of the basin to the other.
For instance, in the Upper Republican NRD, irrigators rely strictly on groundwater to water their crops. In addition, they typically receive less rain than their counterparts in the eastern end of the basin.
The Middle Republican NRD has a combination of groundwater and surface water irrigators, with rainfall somewhere in between the western and eastern totals in the basin.
The combination of surface and groundwater irrigators presents its own set of circumstances the district has to contend with.
In the Lower Republican NRD, they rely heavily on surface water irrigation, with supplemental groundwater wells. Plus, they get the most rain of the three districts.
Now, all three are facing the likelihood of a state-mandated shutdown of acres in their district if a water-short year occurs and there is no other mechanism, besides regulation, to deal with the issue.
Regardless of the differences in practices in the three districts, they all face the same potential shutdown together.
Even before the Republican River Compact Settlement was signed in 2002, there was a lot of finger pointing going on between the three districts, primarily because of their differences in irrigation practices and how the pie was broken up between the three.
If the basin is to sustain its overall economy through the lifeblood of irrigation, then the animosities that have developed over the years must be set aside.
The three NRDs must begin working together rather than finding ways of getting back at the other for decisions out of their control long ago.
The consequences of not doing so will bring the entire basin to its knees economically when the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources, or worse, the Legislature, steps in and starts calling the shots.
We, as patrons and taxpayers, must hold our boards accountable in accomplishing this task together.
Let’s find some common ground that all of us in the basin can agree on and work together toward finding solutions that will enable us to face the inevitable water challenges that still await us.