Water Task Force Begins with Lofty but Unclear Goals


Water is life and state senators say we need to ensure we have enough for generations to come. Now the challenge is achieving that lofty goal in just six month's time, something a new task force has been asked to do.

Dick Mercer of Kearney is one of about 40 who will sit on that task force.

"We don't just turn the water on anymore and let it run," this farmer said.

Getting the most out of every drop of water, Mercer says that's one of the biggest changes he's seen in 60 years of farming.

Drought has shown how valuable irrigation is to Nebraska agriculture.

"But you turn around and get municipalities that will tell you it's just as important," he said.

And that's the challenge, as Sen. Tom Carlson launches the Water Task Force.

He said, "We need to have a policy of water sustainability in Nebraska and that means we're not using any more water than water supply provides us."

But is the new task force too ambitious, given the time and dollars to make it happen?

Mercer said that's a concern to some. He said, "Some of the people I visit with wonder just how we get past the challenges."

Carlson said it won't be easy. "It's going to be a lot of work. We've scheduled 28 full days between June 1st and the middle of December."

"There's the time element that we need to get it done and there's the funding. If any one is more important, it's funding," Mercer added.

Dick Mercer said he's been on enough committees to know it'll be tough for everyone to get past their own concerns.

"To put it bluntly, some of us go there with turf control in mind and we have to give it up," he said.

Mercer says they'll have to find a compromise, but Senator Carlson says it's worth the effort.

He said, "We then not only have taken care of water issues but we have guaranteed financial stability in the rest of the state. That's how important that is."

It's a lot to get done in six months, but Mercer said they will do their best.

"We will do everything we possibly can to stretch resources to get where it's needed most," he said.

The task force has $1 million to use in developing recommendations. Now Mercer said the issue is getting money in the state budget to fund water projects that encourage sustainable water use.