Republican River Basin

Located on Colorado’s northeastern High Plains, the Republican River is 430 miles long and flows west to east. The basin is formed by the confluence of the North Fork of the Republican River and the Arikaree River just north of Haigler, Nebraska. The South Fork joins just southeast of Benkelman, Nebraska. Because the river is fed by local precipitation and groundwater rather than snowmelt from the Rockies, it does not run year-round in some locations.

Miles of Colorado’s Republican River

The landscape of the basin consists mainly of grassland and cultivated land, with agriculture as the dominant water use. Yuma, Kit Carson, Phillips and Washington counties are ranked in the top 10 agricultural producing counties in Colorado. Most of this acreage is irrigated by groundwater pumped from the Ogallala Aquifer. The larger Colorado municipalities within the basin include Wray, Yuma and Burlington.

The Colorado Ground Water Commission regulates water in Colorado pumped from the Ogallala Aquifer, a vast underground reservoir that is being unsustainably depleted. The Ogallala stretches from South Dakota to New Mexico and Texas and along Colorado’s eastern border.

The 1942 Republican River Compact divides the waters of the Republican between Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska. The compact allocates 190,300 acre-feet of water each year to Kansas and 234,500 acre-feet of water each year to Nebraska. If the water supply of any source varies, the allocations also change. A commission oversees compliance. 

However, groundwater pumping has caused disputes and litigation among the basin states. In response, the state legislature created the Republican River Water Conservation District in 2004, which is working in various ways to increase streamflows and offset stream depletions to comply with Colorado’s compact obligations.

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