Agricultural Economics Department


Date of this Version



Published in Cornhusker Economics, 12/07/2005. Produced by the Cooperative Extension, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Nebraska–Lincoln.


Nebraska is blessed with relatively abundant (but not unlimited) ground water supplies. In the tradition of other western states with significant ground water supplies, Nebraska has followed a largely local-control approach to ground water management. This means that local political subdivisions (Natural Resource Districts, or NRDs in Nebraska, other ground water districts in other states) have had the option whether to regulate ground water development and use to extend the life of local ground water supplies. In Nebraska, as well as in Texas, there has traditionally been no effective state role in ground water management – if ground water problems developed and the local district ignored them, the state had no authority to step in. Arizona’s local control ground water management philosophy was changed dramatically to a state control program in the early 1980s, primarily because Wall Street signaled it would refuse to continue financing Arizona’s real estate development unless the long-term adequacy of municipal water supplies could be assured. Arizona responded with new legislation closing overdeveloped areas to new wells, by imposing water use efficiency requirements on ground water irrigators, by requiring real estate developers to demonstrate a 100-year assured water supply for new residential subdivisions and by allowing farmers to sell their water rights (with much water being sold to real estate developers).