Kansas v. Nebraska et. al

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Water Rights
  • Date Filed: March 9, 2015
  • Case #: No. 126, Orig.
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: The Court issued a Decree
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether Nebraska violated 1943 Congressional agreement and 2003 settlement on the apportionment of waters of the Republican River between Kansas, Nebraska, and Colorado and if so, what remedy is required.

The Republican River starts in Colorado, flows through Kansas, into Nebraska, and back into Kansas, and abuts agricultural soils in the three states. In 1942-1943, the federal government and the states of Kansas, Colorado, and Nebraska established a compact that established specific water rights to the Republican River among the three states. The compact was agreed upon by state legislatures, approved by Congress, and became law on May 26, 1943. In 1999, Kansas filed suit against Nebraska, alleging that by pumping groundwater, Nebraska was exceeding its allotment designated in the compact. Following that suit, in 2003, the states enacted a settlement stipulation after disputing the original terms of the compact. Kansas raised additional concerns about Nebraska’s actions in 2006, and in 2010, Kansas filed another challenge against Nebraska, alleging that it breached both the 1943 agreement and the 2003 settlement stipulation.

As this case concerns a matter “in which a state [is] a party,” the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction per Article III of the U.S. Constitution. In 2011, the Supreme Court appointed a special master to hear the complaints against Nebraska. The master filed his report in November 2014, found that Nebraska exceeded its allotment of water, and ordered Nebraska to pay $5.5 million to Kansas. Nebraska disagrees with this decision.

The Supreme Court ordered that Nebraska’s consumption in 2005 and 2006 exceeded the allocated amount, and required Nebraska to pay Kansas $5.5 million dollars in 60 days.

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