WebQuest Lesson - Nebraska's Water Rights

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In partial fulfillment of

UNL Class CI 889

This document was last updated on 08 January 2002 (Ver. 1.9.3)

Introduction  Task  The Process and Resources  Conclusion  General Comments for the Teacher

Nebraska's Water Rights - Issues and Activities

A WebQuest Lesson for Community College (Adult) Social Studies

( This is a work in progess ! )

This WebQuest lesson can easily be adapted to science, economics and other disciplines.

The Big Question

What can we as citizens of Nebraska offer decision makers to help them plan for wise use of water in the future?

Throughout most of the Twentieth Century, most Nebraskans have taken our water and its role in our lives pretty much for granted. For many of us, turning on the tap and expecting clear, safe water is a matter of convenience. There have been tough times for water in Nebraska; droughts in the early years of European settlement, later during the Depression of 1929 - 1940, and more recently as the great plains suffered through the droughts of the 1980s and 1990s. These periodic water shortages impacted directly or indirectly on every Nebraskan, but dry years have been most obvious on thousands of farm and ranch families and rural communities throughout the state. They know all too well the story of Nebraska's limited resources. Most of us have experienced drought and flooding or known someone who did. Often these events occurred within relatively short periods of time of each other. Nowadays, we know more about the
Ogallala Aquifer and its role in the life of the Great Plains. In many ways, the dispute over water defines an urban - rural conflict which continues to grow as the agriculture sector stuggles into the future. This WebQuest Lesson deals with some of the major players in this debate, how they use water, and how its limited supply is allocated.

For the introductory activity, it is suggested that students look to the web for examples of conflict and change which have occurred during the 20th century, especially in the American midwest and in Nebraska. Specifically, look for sites which illustrate these themes :

  • agriculture - dryland vs. irrigated farming
  • human settlement patterns - rural vs. urban life (keeping folks down on the farm/ranch)
  • water and it's role in social change
  • environmental issues
  • This exercise helps familiarize students with the internet, search engines, and topic summary.

    Sources for general topics such as this include
  • Library of Congress' American Memory Learning Page includes collections, activities, educators, lessons, and resources.
  • Goals

    In this WebQuest Lesson, Community College (adult) learners will
  • study the history of public power in Nebraska (George Norris)
  • research the role of water in Nebraska agriculture
  • comprehend the impact of state and federal legislation which influences
          water rights in Nebraska and our neighboring states
  • interact with Special Interest Groups (SIGs) which influence lawmakers
          and decision-makers
  • evaluate strategies to reduce conflicts among water users

    The Task

    In this WebQuest lesson, we're going to learn about the history of water in Nebraska, where it comes from, how its used and abused, and what the future may bring for water use in Nebraska. We're going to identify special interest groups (SIGs) who help decide the future of water, learn strategies to fairly allocated this limited resource, and share what we've learned with the people who make decisions about water in Nebraska and its drainage systems.

    The Process

    From a Nebraska - Platte River Basin perspective, students will read background information describing the physical characteristics of water, where it originates, how its used for hydroelectricity, farming, ranching, manufacturing, wildlife, human consumption. We'll look at preselected web sources used by students, teachers, decision-makers and citizens, then summarize the content of each web source and prepare our notes for presentation to members of our group. Water and its uses is a real-world topic which has engaged many people in Nebraska and throughout the world since recorded history. As these web documents are written for people from all parts of the world, the reading level may be challenging for some.

    Three sites which everyone will read are

  • Art Hovey's article "Nebraska and Wyoming's RIVER Tug of War", Lincoln Journal Star Sun. 04 February 2001
  • US Bureau of Reclamation 'Reclamation in the Plains States - The Early Years'
  • History of Public Power in Nebraska

    While reading information at these internet sites, take appropriate notes on paper or save in a text file on a floppy disk. Be prepared to summarize the main ideas in three paragraphs (1/2 - 1 page of typing) and share what you've learned with the class and your instructor.

    Students will be divided into seven research teams, based on SIGs and their role in water issues. Note there's overlap among organizations and their place within this broad topic.


    Working cooperatively with your teammates, visit each of the URLs (Universal Resource Locator - a web address) in your assigned Group, noting the title of each website, its author (organization or individual), date if known, major points of the argument, and links (if any) to other related sites. Keep your notes concise. Copy/Paste the text portion of the content into a textfile and then save the file with an appropriate file name. For example, if you are visiting the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the file name would be "BofRec", or something similar to this. Include the URL as a part of each web visit. After visiting the site, summarize its content in the textfile, organize your notes as necessary, and save the file in a folder with your team's Group and topic name. For example, your team might be researching Federal Agencies or Power Producers. Create a folder with a name which will describe the contents of the files you and your teammates have created. These files and folders (or floppy disks) will be stored in a location specified by your instructor.

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    Group 1 : Politicians and policy-makers

    State of Nebraska
    Nebraska's Unicameral     Teacher's Guide
    Norris as "Father of Nebraska's Unicameral"
    Rural Elecrification Act [7 U.S.C. 901-950b] With Amendments as approved through Dec. 17, 1993 (Author : Norris)
    Wyoming Water Development Commission
    Nebraska Department of Water Resources (Now Department of Natural Resources)
    Nebraska Energy Office

    Group 2 : Federal and state agencies

    U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Great Plains Region      USGS Stream Flow Data, Ashland NE
    Glendo Reservoir, Wyoming
    Wyoming Hydropower Resource Assessment By River Basin
    Nebraska Natural Resource Districts
    Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
    Pathfinder Reservoir, Wyoming
    Bureau of Reclamation, Fremont Canyon Powerplant

    Group 3 : Consumers : citizens, hunters, business people, students, retired

    Ducks Unlimited
    A Construction company, maker of dams and culverts
    Evered Industrial Builders Power Plant Construction Ogallala NE hydro power
    Pence & Macmillan Attorneys at Law (Water Rights)
    Center for Rural Affairs
    Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UNL)
    National Rifle Association
    Cabella's Sporting Goods
    A student Water Quality Research Project
    Young Farmers/Ranchers      YF&R program      Agriculture in the Classroom
    Nebraska Farm & Ranch realty
    'Mexicans in Nebraska' an article by Dr. Ralph F. Grajeda
    Nebraska Migrant Education

    Group 4 : Power Generation groups

    Omaha Public Power District
    Lincoln Electric Power
    Nebraska Rural Electric Association
    Nebraska Power Association
    Nebraska Public Power District
    Loop Public Power District
    Lake McConaughy State Recreation Area
    Central Nebraska Public Power & Irrigation District
    Nebraska Public Power District Hydro & Irrigation
    Southern Public Power District
    Cornhusker Public Power District
    Goshen Irrigation District
    Nebraska Energy Projects     Nebraska Case Study
    Nebraska Wind Monitoring Program
    Hydropower Descriptions
    Solar energy Projects and sites     A Nebraska PV site

    Group 5 : Irrigators & Center Pivot Manufacturers

    Agriculture in the Classroom : Sugar beets
    Valmont Industries Irrigation equipment
    Family Farm Alliance "A Non-profit Organization Serving Western Irrigated Agriculture"
    Nebraska Irrigation Inc. Employment for irrigation professionals
    Jobs in irrigation

    Group 6 : Environmentalists

    Crane Meadows Nature Center
    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
    Platte River Endangered Species Partnership
    Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality
    National Audubon Society
    Nebraska's Sandhills : Partners for Fish and Wildlife (US Fish & Wildlife Service)
    National Association of Conservation Disticts and Nebraska Districts on the WWW.
    National Wildlife Federation - Nebraska Chapter
    Audubon Spring Creek Prairie
    Nine Mile Prairie
    Groundwater Foundation
    Union of Concerned Scientists

    Group 7 : Farmers and ranchers

    Nebraska Farm Bureau
    Nebraska Cattlemen
    An online cattle trader "Provide a meeting place for buyers and sellers of cattle and related products"
    Nebraska Corn Growers
    Nebraska Dry Edible Bean Commission
    Grass and Grain farmers weekly

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    While reading content at the web sites assigned to you (only one Group), take appropriate notes and print the graphics (illustrations, maps and charts) which best illustrate the site's point of view. Studying water rights and its use can be a daunting task. For this reason, the topic has been broken into smaller chunks, which we call SIGs or Roles.

    At this point, the issue which you are to resolve is
    What does this SIG (Special Interest Group) contribute to our understanding of the big water question in Nebraska?

    Each person in your team must now contribute what you've learned from the web sites you've visited. Share the knowledge with your teammates. Often the topics are complex, so you'll need to examine the details in order to reach a consensus among your group. To promote transformation (demonstrate what you've learned) you must construct new meaning and synthesize what you've learned. You and your team must create a product such as (but not limited to) -- HyperStudio stacks, a tri-fold brochure, a poster, a short videotape or Quicktime file, a play, or an online document -- to demonstrate what you and your colleagues have learned. You must get approval from your instructor before you actually begin work on your group's product.

    Go back to the Big Question and look for examples in which the websites you and your team visited actually address the Big Question. What arguments are presented? Are the arguments based on fact or opinion? How do you know? After your product has been accepted by your instructor, begin work on it. After it is completed and approved, your team must identify three individuals or groups mentioned on these websites to whom the synthesis of your research (your product) can be sent or emailed for their comments. You must make a serious effort to contact the people and request they respond to your product in a timely manner.

    Sources for Real World Feedback

    Your group's conclusion (product) can be sent to the following places for comment and evaluations:

  • Directory of Email list servers

  • Web 66 International WWW Schools Registry

  • Teacher contact database

  • Pitsco's Launch to Asking an Expert


    Now that we've completed our WebQuest, has it addressed the Big Question? What have been the most significant points you've learned during this activity? After your internet research and production of your product, do you have a deeper understanding of a real, gray, challenging topic? Consider what you've learned from this experience and how you can apply that knowledge and those skills, in new ways. Write a one page summary of this WebQuest activity and what's its meant for you. Give specific examples from your research, product, and processes used to reach conclusions.

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    Terminology Used in this Lesson

    URL - Universal Resource Locator, an internet address

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    (WQwater.html)gen 08 January 2002