Friday, Gov. Dave Heineman released a statement regarding one of Nebraska's recently reduced natural resources.
He said "water is Nebraska's most precious natural resource and during the last few years we have experienced both extreme flooding and prolonged drought."
The Gov. believes that the work of the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources and their dedication to the sustainable use and proper management of our water and related land resources is important, especially during times of drought.
The Department's staff of over 100 is directed by Brian Dunnigan and has major responsibilities for regulating the use of the waters of our streams, directing interstate compacts and decrees, conducting a stream gagging program, implementing floodplain management programs, inspecting dams and reviewing plans for dam safety, administering state water resources funds, and general water planning activities.
The Department maintains field offices in Bridgeport, Cambridge, Ord, Norfolk, and Lincoln that provide a local point of contact for many water right holders.
Nebraska has issued around 8,200 surface water use and reservoir storage permits. They are issued for a variety of uses, including irrigation, municipal uses, power generation, and manufacturing.
The Department is responsible for administering these water rights ensuring that the oldest rights receive their water first in times of shortage.
The Departmental efforts that have been high profile in recent years have been those dealing with interstate compacts and decrees. The Department has specific responsibilities related to the Blue River Compact, the North Platte Decree, the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program, the Republican River Compact, the South Platte Compact, and Upper Niobrara Compact and is committed to meeting those responsibilities.
When the Department determines that supplies are not balanced in a river basin, the Department works with the local natural resources district (NRD) to develop plans to address the uses of surface water and groundwater.
These integrated management plans can also be voluntarily initiated by an NRD. The plans are designed to sustain a balance between water uses and supplies to maintain the economic viability and social and environmental health, safety, and welfare of the basin.
In support of integrated water management and other state water activities, the Department conducts various planning, engineering, water use and hydrologic studies, and modeling.
The Department also maintains extensive natural resources data on its website and is developing a sophisticated, new tool called INSIGHT, an Integrated Network of Scientific Information and GeoHydrologic Tools.
This tool will provide the citizens of Nebraska with a wide array of information on water supplies and water uses throughout Nebraska. INSIGHT will be a unique tool and a model to follow amongst the western states. Nebraska's future depends on our efficient management of our water and land resources.