Nothing is more emotion packed than a discussion of ways and means to allocate a resource that is essential to the maintenance of human life. Yet the scarcity of water in many parts of our nation makes such a discussion imperative. Although Nebraska's landscape is dotted with innumerable creeks and streams, the state's tremendous irrigation developments have long since created water disputes and a legal system for adjudicating them. This article will attempt to show that from a legal-economic viewpoint at least some changes are long overdue.

I. Introduction

II. Watercourse Defined

III. The Legal Doctrines … A. The Existing Riparian Doctrine … B. The Appropriation Doctrine

IV. The Department of Water Resources … A. General Duties … B. Applications for Appropriations … C. Storage Appropriations … D. Lands to Be Irrigated … E. Administrative Penalties … F. Stored Floodwaters … G. Condition of Dams

V. Nebraska Watercourse Law—Its Characteristics and Problems … A. Ancient Vested Appropriation Rights … B. Quantity Limitations … C. Water Shortages … D. Transferability of Appropriation Rights … E. Forfeiture of Appropriation Rights … F. Downstream Senior v. Upstream Junior Appropriations … G. Preferences … (1) The Legal Implications … (2) The Economic Implications … H. Trans-watershed Diversions … I. Administrative Standards … J. Conclusion