CANCELLED: Nebraska’s Decentralized Water Planning Framework

Monday, May 8, 2017 | 1:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.

Since 2004, integrated water resources planning in Nebraska has taken the form of local integrated management plans and regional basin-wide plans, rather than a statewide water plan. For each plan, the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources (NeDNR) works in partnership with local water managers from the state’s Natural Resources Districts (NRDs) and local water user stakeholders to manage the state’s hydrologically connected surface water and groundwater.

Under this decentralized planning framework, the state coordinates planning and implementation and provides expertise in the form of technical analyses and knowledge of applicable statutes and regulations, while the NRDs and stakeholders bring familiarity with local water management challenges and opportunities to the process. This collaborative process allows flexibility in meeting the state’s objective of balancing water supplies and uses in a manner that fits each area’s unique needs and conditions. For example, in areas where existing demands regularly exceed available water supplies, plans are focused on ways to reduce demands or increase supplies. On the other hand, plans in areas with more abundant water are proactive, focusing on identifying and filling information gaps and planning for how to manage problems before they occur. Both local integrated management plans and regional basin-wide plans are adaptive—NeDNR and the NRDs meet annually to exchange data, discuss management actions, and evaluate whether plans should be updated in response to new information or changing conditions.

This localized approach to natural resources planning provides advantages over top-down, state-driven planning on three levels: first, the process of developing and implementing plans establishes and builds a collaborative relationship between the state and local water managers. Second, through collaborating with local water managers and water users, the state gains a better understanding of local or regional issues and data needs. Third, the resulting plans outline management actions to improve water availability and establish a management framework that improves the state’s ability to respond to emergencies when they arise.