Nebraska trees use far less river water than previously thought
October 7, 2009

A study by the US Geological Survey says that trees along the Platte River use about half as much water as previously thought -- about 22.2 inches per year, just a little bit less than both annual rainfall and water demand for irrigated corn in the same area. This is big news for Nebraska, because it's been thought for a long time that trees take lots of water from nearby rivers and streams -- and that was a big a problem for Nebraska, which is still engaged in a protracted legal dispute with Kansas over rights to the water in the Republican River. If trees are taking less from the rivers than previously thought, then it may not be useful to remove trees from streams and riverbanks as an effort to comply with interstate agreements about water allocations. Changes in water use have significantly changed the appearance of major rivers in Nebraska over the last century, and long-term planning requires a better understanding of how trees and other vegetation affect the rivers.

October 2009
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last revised October 2009