A state law passed in 2004 required NRDs in the upper Platte Basin in Nebraska to impose moratoriums on groundwater irrigated acres in a large stretch of the river that was deemed over-appropriated - essentially having an imbalance between water supplies and demands. NRDs in the over-appropriated area have to return the Platte River to 1997 conditions and, ultimately, a fully appropriated condition.

In the Twin Platte NRD, the requirement to return to 1997 conditions as spelled out in an integrated management plan it has with the state is to begin placing 5,859 acre feet of offset water annually into the Platte and increases to 7,700 acre feet annually in 50 years. Related, an agreement between Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service aimed at protecting federally endangered species requires Nebraska to return the Platte to 1997 conditions.

The Republican River’s use is dictated by a 70-year-old water interstate water compact between Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado that the State of Kansas has used to instigate litigation in recent years. Kansas has sought a permanent shutdown of groundwater irrigation on 300,000-500,000 acres in Nebraska, or about one-quarter to one-half of all groundwater irrigated acres in Nebraska’s part of the Basin. This proposed remedy has not been acceptable to residents of Nebraska and a recommendation issued by the Special Master appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t recommend that remedy be imposed.

The NRDs in the Republican Basin have long imposed water restrictions to reduce consumptive use of water, and development of new groundwater-irrigated acres is prohibited. All irrigation wells in the Basin are metered and annually checked by NRD employees to document water usage to ensure compliance with water-use restrictions. Unlike obligations in the Platte, NRDs in the Republican Basin won’t have to use the project annually to increase river flows. It will only be used during exceptionally dry times. Water will be delivered to Medicine Creek, whose confluence with the Republican River is located near Cambridge.