Supreme Court sides with Kansas in dispute over water use from Republican River

The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered Nebraska to pay Kansas $5.5 million in a long-running legal dispute over use of water from the Republican River.

The justices also gave Nebraska some of what it asked for and ordered changes to the formula for measuring water consumption. Nebraska argued the formula was unfair.

Justice Elena Kagan, writing the majority opinion, said the court was adopting the recommendations of the independent expert the justices appointed to help resolve the states' differences.

The dispute centers on a 1943 compact allocating 49 percent of the river's water to Nebraska, 40 percent to Kansas and 11 percent to Colorado.

Since 1999, Kansas has complained that Nebraska uses more than its fair share of water from the river, which originates in Colorado and runs mostly through Nebraska before ending in Kansas.

"Both remedies safeguard the compact; both insist that states live within its law," Kagan wrote.

Six justices agreed on how much Nebraska should pay for taking more than its legal share of the river's water in 2005 and 2006. Five signed off on changing the formula.

Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented on both counts, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts regarding the formula.