Kansas, Nebraska head to court over years-old water dispute

Kansas and Nebraska are continuing their fight for water in the Republican River Basin.

On Monday, the two states will begin a trial in Portland, Maine, before a special master appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court. The special master will then make a recommendation to the Supreme Court on how to proceed.

This particular disagreement stems from a 2003 settlement of a 1998 dispute in which Kansas accused Nebraska of using too much water.

This time, Kansas contends that Nebraska violated the terms of the settlement and used more than 78,000 acre-feet — over 25 billion gallons — of water from 2005 to 2006.

In May 2010, Kansas asked the Supreme Court to reopen the case and enforce the terms of the previous settlement. The court granted the request in April 2011 and appointed the special master.

According to a 1943 river compact, 49 percent of the Republican River’s water goes to Nebraska, 40 percent goes to Kansas and 11 percent goes to Colorado.

The Republican River starts in eastern Colorado and flows through Nebraska and Kansas before joining the Smoky Hill River and becoming the Kansas River. The river feeds the Milford Reservoir and is used by farmers for irrigation. The river basin covers almost 25,000 square miles.

Contributing: Associated Press