Public Policy Center, University of Nebraska


Date of this Version



Prepared for the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources.


Copyright 2012 University of Nebraska Public Policy Center. Used by permission.


Water quantity is becoming an increasingly important and contentious issue. Many states are using public participation processes to ensure that the wide-ranging interests of the public are considered. A number of contextual factors should be considered in developing a Nebraska participatory process for public input on water issues. Factors worth considering include jurisdictional arrangements, the landscape of potential partners and stakeholders, the current state of scientific knowledge about water supply and demand, and funding and resource issues. A variety of input practices do exist which states can, and have, employed to obtain input on water issues – from the public and expert stakeholders. Examples of such components include the use of surveys, public meetings, deliberative forums, expert interviews, and participatory modeling. Some states have developed comprehensive participatory processes for water planning. These include permanently established structures such as the models used in Colorado and Kansas; temporary structures – as exemplified by New Mexico’s approach; and wide-scale participatory initiatives, such as those convened in Oklahoma and North Dakota. There are pros and cons to each approach, particularly when it comes to political considerations, resource requirements, or other interests. Key lessons learned from the experiences of other states provide guidance to the development of a Nebraska participatory approach. Finally, three blueprints that Nebraska could follow to pursue or enhance greater participation in water planning are proposed: 1) initiating traditional forms of public input, such as surveys and focus groups; 2) convening a comprehensive, highly structured deliberative approach to water planning across the state; and/or 3) institutionalizing regional, basin-specific models for public input.