Natural Resources

Ban on certain out-of-state groundwater transfers considered

The Natural Resources Committee heard testimony Jan. 26 on a bill intended to protect Nebraska’s groundwater resources.

Sen. Tom Briese
Sen. Tom Briese

Currently, any entity that intends to withdraw groundwater from a well located in Nebraska and transport it for use in another state must apply to the state Department of Natural Resources for a permit.

LB241, introduced by Albion Sen. Tom Briese, would prohibit the department’s director from granting a permit that would allow groundwater to be transported more than 10 miles outside of Nebraska unless it is necessary to comply with an interstate compact or decree.

Briese said he introduced the bill in light of the current megadrought in southwestern states and population growth along Colorado’s Front Range.

As the value of water in western states increases, he said, it might someday be financially feasible to pipe water from the Ogallala Aquifer to those places. Briese said LB241 would prevent that from happening without future action by the Legislature.

“The health, safety and welfare of future Nebraskans truly hinges on the preservation of our water,” he said.

Eric Hansen testified in support of the bill on behalf of the Nebraska Cattlemen, saying Nebraska’s groundwater supplies are vital to agricultural operations across the state.

Bruce Rieker testified in opposition to LB241 on behalf of the Nebraska Farm Bureau. He said the organization opposes any transfer of Nebraska’s groundwater to other states “whether it’s 10 feet or 10 miles,” in order to protect Nebraska’s resources.

The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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