Nebraska Revised Statute 46-294
Applications; approval; requirements; conditions; burden of proof.
(1) Except for applications approved in accordance with subsection (1) of section 46-291, the Director of Natural Resources shall approve an application filed pursuant to section 46-290 only if the application and the proposed transfer or change meet the following requirements:
(a) The application is complete and all other information requested pursuant to section 46-293 has been provided;
(b) The proposed use of water after the transfer or change will be a beneficial use of water;
(c)(i) Any requested transfer in the location of use is within the same river basin as defined in section 46-288 or (ii) the river basin from which the appropriation is to be transferred is tributary to the river basin to which the appropriation is to be transferred;
(d) Except as otherwise provided in subsection (4) of this section, the proposed transfer or change, alone or when combined with any new or increased use of any other source of water at the original location or within the same irrigation district, reclamation district, public power and irrigation district, or mutual irrigation or canal company for the original or other purposes, will not diminish the supply of water available for or otherwise adversely affect any other water appropriator and will not significantly adversely affect any riparian water user who files an objection in writing pursuant to section 46-291;
(e) The quantity of water that is transferred for diversion or other use at the new location will not exceed the historic consumptive use under the appropriation or portion thereof being transferred, except that this subdivision does not apply to (i) a transfer in the location of use if both the current use and the proposed use are for irrigation, the number of acres to be irrigated will not increase after the transfer, and the location of the diversion from the stream will not change or (ii) a transfer or change in the purpose of use of a surface water irrigation appropriation as provided for in subsection (3), (5), or (6) of section 46-290 if the transfer or change in purpose will not diminish the supply of water available or otherwise adversely affect any other water appropriator, adversely affect Nebraska's ability to meet its obligations under a multistate agreement, or result in administration of the prior appropriation system by the Department of Natural Resources, which would not have otherwise occurred;
(g) If a proposed transfer or change is of an appropriation that has been used for irrigation and is in the name of an irrigation district, reclamation district, public power and irrigation district, or mutual irrigation or canal company or is dependent upon any such district's or company's facilities for water delivery, such district or company has approved the transfer or change;
(h) If the proposed transfer or change is of a storage-use appropriation and if the owner of that appropriation is different from the owner of the associated storage appropriation, the owner of the storage appropriation has approved the transfer or change;
(i) If the proposed transfer or change is to be permanent, either (i) the purpose for which the water is to be used before the transfer or change is in the same preference category established by section 46-204 as the purpose for which the water is to be used after the transfer or change or (ii) the purpose for which the water is to be used before the transfer or change and the purpose for which the water is to be used after the transfer or change are both purposes for which no preferences are established by section 46-204;
(j) If the proposed transfer or change is to be temporary, it will be for a duration of no less than one year and, except as provided in section 46-294.02, no more than thirty years;
(k) The transfer or change will not be inconsistent with any applicable state or federal law and will not jeopardize the state's compliance with any applicable interstate water compact or decree or cause difficulty in fulfilling the provisions of any other formal state contract or agreement; and
(l) The proposed transfer or change is in the public interest. The director's considerations relative to the public interest shall include, but not be limited to, (i) the economic, social, and environmental impacts of the proposed transfer or change and (ii) whether and under what conditions other sources of water are available for the uses to be made of the appropriation after the proposed transfer or change. The Department of Natural Resources shall adopt and promulgate rules and regulations to govern the director's determination of whether a proposed transfer or change is in the public interest.
(2) The applicant has the burden of proving that the proposed transfer or change will comply with subdivisions (1)(a) through (l) of this section, except that (a) the burden is on a riparian user to demonstrate his or her riparian status and to demonstrate a significant adverse effect on his or her use in order to prevent approval of an application and (b) if both the current use and the proposed use after a transfer are for irrigation, the number of acres to be irrigated will not increase after the transfer, and the location of the diversion from the stream will not change, there is a rebuttable presumption that the transfer will be consistent with subdivision (1)(d) of this section.
(3) In approving an application, the director may impose any reasonable conditions deemed necessary to protect the public interest, to ensure consistency with any of the other criteria in subsection (1) of this section, or to provide the department with information needed to properly and efficiently administer the appropriation while the transfer or change remains in effect. If necessary to prevent diminution of supply for any other appropriator, the conditions imposed by the director shall require that historic return flows be maintained or replaced in quantity, timing, and location. After approval of any such transfer or change, the appropriation shall be subject to all water use restrictions and requirements in effect at any new location of use and, if applicable, at any new diversion location. An appropriation for which a transfer or change has been approved shall retain the same priority date as that of the original appropriation. If an approved transfer or change is temporary, the location of use, purpose of use, or type of appropriation shall revert to the location of use, purpose of use, or type of appropriation prior to the transfer or change.
(4) In approving an application for a transfer, the director may also authorize the overlying of water appropriations on the same lands, except that if any such overlying of appropriations would result in either the authorized diversion rate or the authorized aggregate annual quantity that could be diverted to be greater than is otherwise permitted by section 46-231, the director shall limit the total diversion rate or aggregate annual quantity for the appropriations overlain to the rate or quantity that he or she determines is necessary, in the exercise of good husbandry, for the production of crops on the land involved. The director may also authorize a greater number of acres to be irrigated if the amount and rate of water approved under the original appropriation is not increased by the change of location. An increase in the number of acres to be irrigated shall be approved only if (a) such an increase will not diminish the supply of water available to or otherwise adversely affect another water appropriator or (b) the transfer would not adversely affect the water supply for any river basin, subbasin, or reach that has been designated as overappropriated pursuant to section 46-713 or determined to be fully appropriated pursuant to section 46-714 and (i) the number of acres authorized under the appropriation when originally approved has not been increased previously, (ii) the increase in the number of acres irrigated will not exceed five percent of the number of acres being irrigated under the permit before the proposed transfer or a total of ten acres, whichever acreage is less, and (iii) all the use will be either on the quarter section to which the appropriation was appurtenant before the transfer or on an adjacent quarter section.