Nebraska water issues pale in comparison to California
While Nebraska faces water issues in the Republican and Platte River Basins, they look minor compared to issues in California.
That’s the message University of Nebraska Professor Nick Brozovic´ brought to the Upper Republican Natural Resources District second annual water conference in Imperial, March 27.
Brozovic´ serves as the Director of Policy at the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute at the University of Nebraska.
At 8.5 million acres, Nebraska irrigates the largest number of acres of any state in the U.S., including California. Although California isn’t far behind with 8 million acres.
Local control of groundwater through Nebraska’s NRDs is unique—not only in the U.S. but in the world, Brozovic´ said.
With such a large state, California suffers from a mismatch between supply and demand with most of the rain falling in the north and eastern areas of the state.
Add to that complex water rights and laws, large urban areas and endangered species and the water policy issues only get worse.
Brozovic´ chuckled about a recent tweet from waterfoundation.org: “Let’s take lessons from CA & apply them to the West.”
“Let’s not do that!!!” he exclaimed.
Water-wise, California is “very far behind” in the west, he said. Part of the reason for that is simply California’s arrogance, he added.
Surface water users must quantify and report all of their water use while groundwater users are not required to.
Even though about one-third of groundwater wells are metered, state law does not allow the checking of meters on private property.
Snowpack represents the key component for surface water in the state but the climate has multi-year dry and wet periods.
Early this year, California experienced record rainfalls in the north filling reservoirs. In some cases, those reservoirs were on the verge of breaching, due to a lack of infrastructure upkeep.
California did adopt the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in 2014, a move toward sustainable water management in the state.
It targets “undesirable” impacts including lowering of groundwater levels, degraded water quality, seawater intrusion, reduction of groundwater storage and adverse surface water-groundwater interaction.
The act created Groundwater Sustainability Agencies, similar to NRDs. However, they don’t follow hydrologic boundaries, Brozovic´ said, making it difficult to manage water across hydrologic boundaries.
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