Date of this Version
Water has had and still has an important role in the history of civilization. Early man created a social order and formulated social values that led to development of irrigation systems in areas of sparse precipitation. Although early settlers in Nebraska also looked to the rivers for agricultural stability in times of drought, it was not until technology and a strong federal government came of age that the discharge of rivers was significantly affected by diversions for irrigation. Now, few rivers are unaffected by one or more storage, diversion, or return structures. Additional roles for surface water are now sought. Among these are minimum streamflow to support fisheries and riverine wildlife, assimilate pollution, provide recreation and aesthetic enjoyment, and recharge valley aquifers. Another role is the preservation of wild and scenic reaches for memorials to our heritage and for the joy of future generations. To the question "Water use-who cares?," one must answer "Everybody." Our task is to identify the social values of today for management of the resource.