Policy Documents

Nebraska's evolving Water law: Overview of Challenges & Opportunities

Mary E. Kelly –
September 1, 2010





Nebraska’s Water Resources


Nebraska is endowed with abundant, accessible water resources. From the vast reserves of the High Plains Aquifer to the healthy flows of the Republican, Platte, Niobrara, and several other rivers, Nebraska’s water resources are extensive, especially in the context of the state’s modest and relatively stable population.

The High Plains Aquifer

As the United States’ largest underground reserve of water, the High Plains Aquifer (also re-ferred to as the ‚Ogallala Aquifer‛) covers 174,000 square miles over portions of eight states (Figure 1). In total, the aquifer is currently estimated to store about 3 billion acre-feet of water,




though not all of this water is technically or economically recoverable. Nebraska contains 37% of the aquifer’s land area and an estimated 65% of the total aquifer volume. The saturated thickness of the aquifer in many areas of Nebraska ranges from 200 to 1200 feet.