Jesse Bradley, assistant director of the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources, outlined Nebraska’s obligations under a new agreement reached with Kansas on water use in the Republican River Basin during last week’s water conference. (Johnson Publications photo)

Kansas, Nebraska water officials outline aspects of long-term agreement

■ Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of stories reporting on the water conference held in Imperial March 27.

    Last summer Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado signed a cooperative agreement to manage water in the Republican River Basin  together.
    The historic agreement came after water officials in all three states established a working relationship rather than litigating issues in court.
    Officials from Nebraska and Kansas outlined some of the key details of the agreement during the Upper Republican Natural Resources District’s second annual water conference March 27 in Imperial.
Nebraska requirements
    One of Kansas’ goals in the the new agreement was to provide irrigators in the Kansas Bostwick Irrigation District (KBID)  and other water users water when they needed it.
    Nebraska agreed not to release water from Harlan County Lake (HCL) just to meet compact compliance.
    Instead, they will work with Kansas to achieve the most efficiency from the water released.
    Compliance calculations for the three Republican Basin NRDs (Upper, Middle and Lower) showed they would need to offset about 37,000 acre feet of overpumping in 2016.
    Because the compliance calculations are made after the pumping season, Jesse Bradley, assistant director of Nebraska’s Department of Natural Resources, said the state needed some latitude in making up any differences.
    That allows Nebraska to use augmentation and streamflow to ensure there is sufficient water in HCL by June 1.
    Kansas estimated it would only need about 20,000 AF from HCL in 2017. So rather than pump the other 17,000 AF, the balance will be stored underground. This reduces water loss due to evaporation from the HCL, improving efficiency of the water.
    Kansas retains the right to that 17,000 AF.
    Bradley said this gives Nebraska more flexibility to meet compliance with Kansas set forth by the 1943 water compact between the three states.

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