NWRA State Member


Nebraska Water Resources Association

Scott Merritt

8700 Executive Woods Drive, Suite 400
Lincoln, NE 68512-9612

The Nebraska Water Resources Association (NWRA) is a nonprofit alliance of state organizations and individuals dedicated to the appropriate management, conservation, and use of water and land resources on a statewide and national level. Founded in 1944 to further the development, reclamation, conservation and beneficial uses of Nebraska’s water and land resources, the NWRA’s mission is to be a leader in Nebraska water. Directed by a 24 member board of directors representing Nebraska’s river basins, surface water and ground water irrigation, electric power, municipalities, industrial, professional, conservation, recreation and financial institutions, the NWRA provides a diverse but unified voice to government policy makers and the public on water issues. 

Initially known as the Nebraska Reclamation Association, the NWRA came into existence to settle a dispute between the Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District and a group of concerned water users. The association continued to foster cooperation among water users as it dealt with many intra-state water issues, including promoting public power development, major flood control works and watershed programs and projects, and was also active in inter-state water issues through its affiliation with the National Water Resources Association then known as the National Reclamation Association.  

By the 1970’s, Nebraska had seen many post-World War II water projects completed and the association turned its attention toward municipal water needs—both the projects and use associated with ground water and surface water resources.  It was also during this time that water projects became vulnerable by environmental and endangered species protection laws passed by Congress in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.  

In 1972, the Nebraska Reclamation Association followed the lead of the national association and changed its name to the Nebraska Water Resources Association to better reflect the expanded water interests of the association.  The NWRA also expanded membership to accommodate for broadening interests and increasing pressure being put upon water development.  Such membership included manufacturing industries, businesses and agribusinesses that encouraged the expansion of irrigation in the state.  As a result, in 1976, the NWRA became a full-time association. 

In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, the NWRA began to focus on the declining quality and quantity of ground water resources.  As major interested shifted to ground water and individual irrigators’ water rights and uses, public power districts were involved in rehabilitating projects and contract renewals in addition to relicensing water rights because of environmental laws and programs.  As a result, while still supporting multiple purpose water projects and water development, the NWRA began to also focus on defending water issues.

In the early 1990’s, the NWRA goals were to:  protect state water rights and existing irrigation and other water uses; promote development of supplement water supplies to ensure future availability of water for all needs; to conserve water by management; to strengthen the agricultural base of Nebraska through irrigation development; and to expand the economy of Nebraska through agricultural development and food production, while considering fish and wildlife as well as recreational interests.

Today, the NWRA’s vision is to achieve a sustainable water supply for all interests in Nebraska.  The NWRA vision is to also achieve this at a national level.  The NWRA appreciates that our existing water resources need to be used in an economical and environmentally responsible manner. This can only be done by asking its members to promote the following principles:

*Responsible environmental stewardship;
*Protection of public health and the environment;
*Use of sound science in water resource management;
*Reasonable economic benefits and costs for water projects;
*Advocate for public education regarding water resource issues; and
*Recognized leadership in addressing water issues.

The NWRA has evolved as an association since its initial creation in 1944.  However, since 1944 the NWRA has not strayed from its initial purpose to promote the position that Nebraska’s water policy must balance the needs of people and the environment.  

[1] This section was written with the assistance of a report prepared by Daniel P. Ludwig, Strategic Membership Analysis and Implementation Plan for the Nebraska Water Resources Association (March, 1995).  References used by Mr. Ludwig included:

*Background Situation Report. NWRA Finance and Membership Committee, September 22, 1986.
*Rundquist, B (1993) Nebraska Water Resources Association: Water Users Settled Disputes Banded Together to Ensure Supplies, from Flat Water: A History of Nebraska and Its Water. Conservation and Survey Division, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.