Nebraska State Constitution Article XV-5

Article XV-5


Use of water dedicated to people.

The use of the water of every natural stream within the State of Nebraska is hereby dedicated to the people of the state for beneficial purposes, subject to the provisions of the following section.


  • Neb. Const. art. XIV, sec. 5 (1920);
  • Adopted 1920, Constitutional Convention, 1919-1920, No. 35;
  • Transferred by Constitutional Convention, 1919-1920, art. XV, sec. 5.


Sections 46-2,107 through 46-2,119, permitting instream flow appropriations, do not offend this provision or Neb. Const. art. XV, section 4 or 6. In re Application A-16642, 236 Neb. 671, 463 N.W.2d 591 (1990).

The state has the right, under both the police powers and the Nebraska Constitution, to regulate the use of natural rivers and streams so that waste is eliminated. In re Water Appropriation Nos. 442A, 461, 462 & 485, 210 Neb. 161, 313 N.W.2d 271 (1981).

Riparian rights were not abolished by this section. Wassenburger v. Coffee, 180 Neb. 149, 141 N.W.2d 738 (1966).

The right to appropriate water for irrigation purposes is limited to waters of natural streams. Rogers v. Petsch, 174 Neb. 313, 117 N.W.2d 771 (1962); Drainage Dist. No. 1 of Lincoln v. Suburban Irr. Dist., 139 Neb. 460, 298 N.W. 131 (1941).

Department of Water Resources has authority to make findings and orders for appropriation of water. Ainsworth Irr. Dist. v. Bejot, 170 Neb. 257, 102 N.W.2d 416 (1960).

Right to use of natural stream acquired prior to 1895 is a vested property right and may not be taken away by legislative action. City of Fairbury v. Fairbury Mill & Elevator Co., 123 Neb. 588, 243 N.W. 774 (1932).

Right to appropriate public waters of state for generating electrical energy is franchise, and taxable as such. Northern Nebraska Power Co. v. Holt County, 120 Neb. 724, 235 N.W. 92 (1931).