Monday, April 18, 2011

Supreme Court Agrees to Hear KS Case

A U.S. Supreme Court decision last week will reopen a Kansas lawsuit against Nebraska on the Republican River.  At issue is the water use by Nebraska can and has exceeded the compact  - particularly in 2005 and 2006.  Kansas is arguing that Nebraska has not done enough to reduce its water use to stay within the compact every year.  Kansas agrees the compact has been met in the last 3 years, but only because of very wet conditions and lower irrigation demand.  In 2005 and 2006 the compact was exceeded, and it will be again as soon as normal or drier conditions return.

Meanwhile, Nebraska continues to implement water conservation efforts.  One example is the use of soil moisture sensors in the Lower Republican Natural Resource District (LRNRD) where it's been reported that 300 sets of these sensors have been sold so far - through a $780,000.00 cost-share program funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative and the LRNRD. 

Soil moisture sensors can be used for several purposes.  One use is that they will tell the irrigators to stop pumping when their irrigation water gets to the bottom of the crop root zone, with the thinking that the extra water they had been applying (before the sensors) will be saved.  They can also be used to manage deficit irrigation water very accurately.  The problem is that the first use does not reduce consumptive water use while the second use will - to some degree.

In all fairness, Nebraska is implementing other conservation efforts as well - in various locations up and down the Republican River - and some of it designed to reduce consumptive water use.  I think Kansas' issue is not that nothing is being done, but that not enough real water conservation is being done compared to the possible Compact exceedences. 

In Compact compliance issues, the only relevent number is the consumptive use of the Nebraska irrigators.    Eliminating the inefficient water use = recharge (first use of soil moisture sensors) does not lessen the water being used by the crops.  The second use, will - depending on how much deficit irrigation takes place or is required.  I'm certain the Supreme Court will be aware of water conservation efforts that work for Compact compliance and those that don't.

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