Edited by Clifford S. Russell and Duane D. Baumann
In 1939 there were 172 special-purpose organizations designed to deal with some aspect of Nebraska’s waters (Fischer, 1981). As greater demands were placed on this resource, additional governmental units emerged to address special needs. By 1969 the population of such organizations had grown to about 500 narrowly focused organizations, with overlapping responsibilities, duplication of services and taxation and limited ability to cope with problems encompassing more than one jurisdiction. They included soil and water conservation districts, watershed conservancy districts, watershed districts, watershed planning boards, irrigation districts, reclamation districts, sanitary drainage districts, drainage districts and groundwater conservation districts. To provide a better basis for solving the state’s water problems, the legislature determined that a consolidation of districts would be appropriate and that a new set of regional water management districts should be devised to blanket the state. Thus, in 1969 the legislature established 24 Natural Resource Districts (NRDs). The legislature’s intent was to create governmental units with sufficient powers to address a broad range of natural resources issues and to implement programs or projects to resolve them. Although only about 300 of the previous districts were merged or abolished in the process of setting up the NRDs, the new organizations had much greater capacity for managing water and other natural resources than their predecessors (ibid.). The original intent of the NRD movement was to bring about a total consolidation of existing entities. This was not politically feasible at the time and so a compromise was struck, with the remaining special-purpose districts...
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