Nebraska Department of Natural Resources (NeDNR)
NeDNR is a state agency with responsibility to:
- Maintain jurisdiction over all matters pertaining to surface water, such as rights for storage, irrigation, power, manufacturing, instream flows, and other beneficial uses
- Lead the annual state water planning and review process (provide policy information, provide intergovernmental coordination, maintain data, enable planning and designing of projects, undertake planning activities)
- Issue permits for: surface water, instream use, water storage, induced groundwater recharge for public water suppliers, and diversions by certain groundwater irrigation wells located within 50 feet of the bank of the channel
- Register wells and delineate hydrologically connected aquifers on streams and rivers
- Regulate the construction, operation, and maintenance of dams
- Identify and delineate floodplains and provide related assistance and coordination
- Negotiate and administer interstate water compacts, decrees, and agreements which include:
- Operate a variety of loan/grant programs for water projects
- Develop integrated management plans and basin-wide plans in cooperation with natural resources districts
- Annually evaluate the expected long-term availability of the state's hydrologically connected water supplies
Natural Resources Districts (NRDs)
Nebraska's 23 NRDs, which are a system of local districts based on river basin boundaries across the state, are responsible for:
- Maintaining district plans and implementing projects to protect groundwater and surface water quality and quantity
- Partnering with other agencies to develop multi-district river basin water management plans
- Maintaining district rules and regulations to deal with groundwater contamination, shortages, or user conflicts, including groundwater well permitting, allocations, flowmeters, usage reporting, well moratoriums, irrigated acre expansion, and transfers
- Providing financial assistance to landowners for irrigation water management and best-management practices to protect water
- Operating water systems for some rural customers and small communities
- Inspecting chemigation (application of fertilizers/pesticides to land or crops in or with water) safety equipment, receiving applications and fees, and issuing chemigation site permits
- Utilizing floodplain management measures to help protect people and property from flood damage
- Holding surface water rights for some instream flows
- Developing integrated management plans in cooperation with Department of Natural Resources
Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA)
NDA is the state lead agency on issues relating to pesticides and water quality while promoting agriculture through advocacy and education, and is responsible for:
- Development and implementation of state management plans for the prevention, evaluation, and mitigation of occurrences of pesticides or pesticide breakdown products in ground and surface water
- Regulation of the distribution, storage, and use of all pesticides, as well as certification and licensing of pesticide applicators
- Managing the Nebraska Buffer Strip Program for cropland adjacent to perennial and seasonal streams, ponds, and wetlands
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC)
NGPC manages the state’s fish, wildlife, park, and outdoor recreation resources. They contribute to statewide water planning by:
- Ensuring that water resource projects and programs properly consider and provide for Nebraska’s fish and wildlife resources and the habitats that support them
- Holding surface water rights for some instream flows
Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE)
The mission of NDEE is to protect the quality of the environment, including air, land, and water resources. NDEE's major responsibilities in regard to the state's water resources are to:
- Conduct surface water quality sampling in lakes, streams, and rivers
- Conduct groundwater quality monitoring, review, and studies
- Make Clean Water Act impairment declarations
- Coordinate chemigation programs and issue applicator certifications
- Lead groundwater pollution remediation
- Assist public water suppliers with preventing contamination
- Permit wells used to inject fluids into the subsurface; concentrated animal feeding operations; and treatment and discharge of industrial and municipal wastewater and stormwater
- Operate a variety of loan/grant programs for local water quality projects
- Assure the quality of drinking water through testing of public water systems and water wells
- License well and pump installation contractors
Nebraska's administration of water is bounded by federal regulations and impacted by the involvement of federal agencies. Three of the most significant regulations are the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Reclamation Act.
Clean Water Act
"The objective of this Act is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters.”
- Federal Water Pollution Control Act, 33 U.S.C. 1251 § 101(a)
The Federal Water Pollution Control Act (also known as the Clean Water Act) preserves the rights and responsibilities of states to manage and reduce pollution levels, and to preserve and develop both land and water resources.
According to the Act, Congress must also aid in research relating to the management of pollution and provide financial assistance to state and interstate agencies involved in the prevention and reduction of pollution. Furthermore, the President shall take action to ensure that foreign nations are taking actions to control pollution levels in their waters and in international waters, and to achieve the same standards for improvement of water quality as set forth by the United States.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the lead agency under the Clean Water Act, working with other federal agencies, as well as state and local authorities, to meet the objectives of this Act.
Endangered Species Act
“The purposes of this Act are to provide a means whereby the ecosystems upon which endangered species and threatened species depend may be conserved, to provide a program for the conservation of such endangered species and threatened species, and to take such steps as may be appropriate to achieve the purposes of the treaties and conventions set forth in subsection (a) of this section.”
- Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. 1531 § 2(b)
The Endangered Species Act declares that Congress recognize that all federal departments and agencies must attempt to conserve endangered and threatened species and shall use their authority to support the objectives of the Act.
It is further declared that all federal agencies must cooperate with both state and local agencies in attempting to resolve water resource conflicts involving the protection and rehabilitation of endangered species.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of the Interior are the lead agencies under the Endangered Species Act, working with other federal agencies, as well as state and local authorities, to meet the objectives of this act.
“An act appropriating the receipts for the sale and disposal of public lands in certain States and Territories to the construction of irrigation works for the reclamation of arid lands.”
- Reclamation Act of 1902, Ch. 1093, 32 Stat. 388
The Reclamation Act declares that any money received from the sale or disposal of public lands in the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming are to be set aside as a special fund to be known as the “reclamation fund.”
This fund may be used to support the diversion and development of water resources in conjunction with the reclamation of arid and semiarid lands.
The Bureau of Reclamation, the Department of the Interior, and the National Park Service are the lead agencies under the Reclamation Act, working with other federal agencies, as well as state and local authorities, to meet the objectives of this act.
Interstate Groups and Organizations
Western States Water Council (WSWC)
The Western States Water Council (WSWC) is an organization designed to negotiate the cooperation between western states on subject matters dealing with planning, conservation, development, management, and protection of water resources.
Composed of representatives selected by the governors of 18 western states, WSWC ensures that the West maintains an adequate supply of quality water resources in order to facilitate the diverse economic and environmental needs of the future. These prerogatives are met by providing a forum in which member states can exchange views on relevant topics and by providing assistance to member states in the evaluation of federal laws and programs, as well as state laws and policies.
WSWC members representing Nebraska include:
- Honorable Pete Ricketts, Governor
- Jeff Fassett, Director, NeDNR
- Jim Macy, Director, NDEQ
Association of Western State Engineers (AWSE)
AWSE also plays a vital role in the management of water resources in the western United States. AWSE consists mostly of state engineers with the intent to formulate broad principles regarding the appropriation and regulation of water resources throughout the member states.
AWSE allows member states to exchange ideas and solutions to pertinent topics, to cooperate in the preservation of state rights regarding the management and development of states’ water resources, and to resolve issues related to interstate water conflicts. AWSE holds positions on a number of different topics including:
AWSE supports the efforts of the Western Governors' Association to encourage federal agencies to develop long term drought management plans for federal projects and to support the states’ efforts to develop plans for non-federal projects.
States Water Rights and Natural Flows Along the Mainstem of the Missouri River
AWSE supports the rights of the states to the natural flows of the Missouri River and opposes any and all efforts that would diminish the primary and exclusive authority of states over the allocation of Missouri River water.
Endangered Species Act
AWSE strongly encourages federal agencies to fulfill their obligation to consult with western state agencies in fulfilling their responsibilities under the Endangered Species Act, including acquisition of valid existing water rights under state law to offset any water system depletions associated with federal habitat restoration activities.
Interstate Council on Water Policy (ICWP)
The ICWP was founded in 1959 to address the need for the management of groundwater and surface water, and their effect on economic and environmental interests. The ICWP is a national organization consisting of state, interstate, regional, and other water resource agencies and national water managers.
The ICWP provides a forum for its members to coordinate water management efforts, exchange information and ideas, and address concerns pertaining to water quality and quantity. The ICWP’s interests include data collection, watershed management, dam safety, flood and drought preparedness, pollution control, wetlands protection, and endangered species and habitat.
As a national council on environmental affairs, the ICWP confers with and advises:
- Congressional committees with water resource responsibility
- The President’s council on Environmental Quality
- The Department of the Interior
- The Army Corps of Engineers
- The Environmental Protection Agency
- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- The Department of Agriculture