In 2004, the Nebraska Legislature passed LB962, a major overhaul to the state’s water law. Under LB962, a river basin’s surface water and groundwater are both taken into account when deciding whether the water supply can sustain further development for irrigation and other high-volume water uses. If a basin is found to be “fully appropriated” (at the maximum level of sustainable development) by the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources (NDNR), drilling new wells or putting new acres into irrigation may be restricted.
The Lower Platte River basin was preliminarily declared as fully-appropriated by the state in December 2008. That preliminary declaration was later reversed and the basin is not currently considered fully-appropriated, although irrigation development is limited in the former fully-appropriated area.
The appropriation status of all of the state's river basins are evaluated annually and it is entirely possible that the Lower Platte Basin will again be declared fully-appropriated in the future. The NRD is taking all possible steps to protect the water use of existing irrigators in such an event, including certifying all irrigated acres in the district.