Water Management Plans


Annual Report of Water Activities in the CPNRD     View Report

Water management in Nebraska involves a complex system of rules and management authorities. In 1987, the Central Platte NRD implemented groundwater management plans to address water quality and water quantity issues throughout the District. Both plans have evolved over the years to reflect new rules and regulations, management practices, and partnerships with local, state, and federal agencies to better protect groundwater.


Individual and Basinwide Integrated Management Plans (IMP)
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Nebraska’s Ground Water Management and Protection Act requires basin-wide planning when an area has been found to be overappropriated (Neb. Rev. Stat. § 46-715; Appendix A).
INDIVIDUAL PLAN: CPNRD & NeDNR began working on the individual Integrated Management Plan (IMP) in 2005 by meeting with Stakeholders to educate them on requirements set by NeDNR and the issues that would need to be considered in developing the Plan. Members included both surface and groundwater interests such as irrigators, city utilities, power districts, economic development and banking representatives. In 2006, the Group finished a draft plan including one goal and 11 objectives. Originally the Plan was to be in place within 3-5 years, however, an extension to complete the Plan set the deadline for 2009 to allow NRDs to wait for the Basinwide plans to be completed. The IMP was approved in May of 2009. In connection with the IMPs, the NRD also revised the Rules and Regulations to correlate with the requirements in the IMP. In 2010, the NeDNR held an open comment period for the annual review of the basin IMPs. The revised IMP was adopted and became effective in 2012. The Plan set
objectives to incrementally reduce the difference between current and fully appropriated levels of development within the basin. Although goals are being met, the original plan required that the same parties develop a second increment within 10 years after the adoption of the first increment basin-wide plan.
The stakeholders began the process for the second increment Plan in August 2018 and will work towards a draft plan with a proposed completion date of May 2019.
BASINWIDE PLAN: The Upper Platte Basin was determined to be overappropriated by the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources and therefore a basin-wide plan was adopted in 2009. The Basinwide IMP stakeholders are finalizing the second increment Plan. Along with future goals, the major update to the Plan is addressing drought management. The first 10-year increment will end in May 2019. The Basinwide and individual IMPs were implemented to ensure that Nebraska is in compliance with the Nebraska New Depletions Plan included within the Platte River Recovery Implementation Plan (PRRIP). Information is available on NeDNR’s website at: dnr.nebraska.gov/iwm.
Partners: Central Platte NRD, North Platte NRD, South Platte NRD, Twin Platte NRD, Tri-Basin NRD, Nebraska Department of Natural Resources
Cooperative Hydrology Study (COHYST)
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In 1997, Nebraska Governor Ben Nelson and governors of Wyoming and Colorado signed the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program (PRRIP) with the U.S. Dept. of Interior. Questions arose about potential impacts on activities along the Platte and it was apparent that data wasn’t available to use. With funding from a Nebraska Environmental Trust grant, CPNRD and a coalition of state and local agencies, water, and environmental organizations developed the Cooperative Hydrology Study (COHYST). It improves the understanding of the hydrological and geological conditions in the Basin and provides scientifically supportable databases, analyses, and detailed computer groundwater models to more accurately identify and quantify the relationship between the Platte River and adjacent groundwater resource. It also provides valuable information necessary to develop a plan to address "new depletions" to flows in the central stretch of the Platte River. The Study assists Nebraska in several avenues: to meet its obligation under PRRIP to analyze proposed activities, assists NRDs along the Platte River in providing appropriate regulation & management, provides a basis to develop policy and procedures related to ground/surface water, and helps analyze other programs. NET awarded $500,000 the first year and $450,000 the second/third-year intents. Groundwater models were completed in 2004 and peer reviewed by Eagle Resources of North Carolina. A team of senior hydrologists were responsible for the design and to supervise the database as it was developed. COHYST computer databases quantify existing groundwater use, river data, and aquifer data in the Platte River Basin. The databases are used to develop regional computer models to provide a better understanding of the groundwater flow system, the inter-relationships between ground & surface water, geology of the region, and other characteristics of the groundwater aquifer.
The models represent real-world features such as rivers, streams, groundwater aquifers, groundwater pumping, or
canals as a set of mathematical equations, which reproduce observed water levels and stream flows; and are tools to predict how changes to or "stresses" on the groundwater system may impact flows in the Platte River. Stresses are additions and subtractions of water from the groundwater system, including pumping from wells, evapotranspiration by vegetation, aquifer storage and recovery, flow to drains, groundwater recharge from precipitation, deep percolation from irrigation, enhanced recharge due to certain land uses, recharge from canal and lateral leakage, and recharge from lakes and reservoirs. The models also help predict how water supply or proposed conservation projects proposed affects groundwater levels and river flows.
COHYST groundwater models estimate changes in stream flow as a result of new irrigated acres between1997-2005. Changes in stream flow were made for reaches of the Platte River above Elm Creek, NE using a 50-year average. The reach changes were subdivided by NRD area– see chart. The estimates are used in the Platte River Basin plan as targets for stream flow depletions needed to be offset to get back to 1997 level of development. COHYST 2010 built on the existing COHYST databases & models. The study included $616,800 in NET funding over 2 years and a smaller COHYST area that covers the Platte River from Lewellen, NE, on the North Platte and Julesburg, CO, on the South Platte downstream to Duncan, NE, on the Platte mainstream. 
- Watershed: soil information and weather data from climate stations were added.
- Surface Water: seepage return from Sutherland Reservoir, seepage from Lake McConaughy, addition of runoff &
irrigation demands; storage/natural flow and environmental storage account.
- Groundwater: match evapotranspiration cells to expected locations, adjusted elevations, routed seepage to new
discharge point, use groundwater model outputs for Lake McConaughy seepage. In 2017, the technical committee used CPNRD’s Water Quality database to provide data needed to allow the model to replicate 2002 dry river conditions. The Conservation Study developed for the Platte Basin IMP to input no-till and other conservation activities to compare conditions back to the 1950s was also utilized. COHYST continues to refine & investigate new elements such as looking for best areas for recharge ponds and tracking excess flows as they return to the river. The model will be used to update the NRD’s GW Management Plan including the phase areas in the plan as needed. Olsson Associates reported that results of the Hydrogeologic Evaluation and Subregional Groundwater Modeling shows that excess flows from the Dawson County canals is being returned to the Platte River more quickly than anticipated; which is a positive effect. The subregional model covers 3% of the COHYST area, allowing for a more detailed and complex evaluation of how water moves through the river and aquifer system. Several subregional
models are being conducted in Nebraska.
Groundwater Quantity Management Plan
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In 1987, the directors established the Groundwater Management Plan, with a phased program to implement such controls when they are needed. The maximum acceptable decline ranges from 10' in the eastern end of the District to 30' in portions of the western end of the district.
If the water table falls to 50% of that maximum decline Phase II would go into effect for any area or areas affected, triggering mandatory reductions in irrigated acres and establishing spacing limits for new irrigation wells.
Further declines to 70%, 90% & 100% of the maximum acceptable decline will trigger Phase III, IV & V controls respectively, mandating additional cutbacks in irrigated acreage and increased spacing limits for new wells. Complete details of the controls are available in district publications. Because of the differences in the aquifer depth and conditions, it is conceivable that some areas could be in the higher phases while other areas may always be in Phase I.
Changes to Rules & Regulations In 2017, the two major changes were cease & desist enforcement procedures and removal of the 2 in 10 irrigation rule. An order was issued in September 2018 for the following changes to take effect November 1, 2018: added new language regarding wells and added a timeline for staff to receive transfer applications. The order also increases the number of years that transfers are not allowed from 2 to 5 years within a GWMA, where declines are more than the 25% allowable level.
On October 25, 2018, the 180-day temporary stay was lifted. The stay was implemented to update the Rules and Regulations for the Fully & Over Appropriated Area of the District. During the temporary stay, the acre transfer tool was updated and new depletion numbers implemented.
Groundwater Quality Management Plan

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The Groundwater Quality Management Program is having a beneficial impact on the nitrate levels in groundwater. The program is undertaking a long-term solution for the District's widespread high groundwater nitrate-nitrogen problems. Until the Program was adopted, the nitrate level in the high nitrate Area of the district had increased at a rate of about 0.5 ppm (parts per million) per year to 19.24 ppm. High groundwater nitrates in some areas of the valley were first identified in 1961. The Board of Directors adopted the Groundwater Management Plan in July 1987 and became effective in August 1987.

At the end of the first crop year under the program, the average level dropped by 0.3 ppm and has continued to drop to 14.47 ppm in Fall of 2013. The plan uses a phased approach, with lesser restrictions in areas that are not high in nitrates with additional regulations applying to areas with higher nitrate concentrations in the groundwater.
Integrated Management Plan (IMP)

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Central Platte NRD and the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources (NDNR) began working on the Integrated Management Plan for the NRD in 2005. The NRD began meeting with Stakeholders in December 2005 to begin educating them on the requirements set by DNR and the issues that would need to be considered in developing the Plan.

The members included both surface and groundwater interests such as irrigators, city utilities, power districts, economic development and banking representatives. In June 2006, the Group finished a draft plan including one goal and 11 objectives. Originally the Plan was to be in place within 3-5 years, however, an extension to complete the Plan set the deadline for 2009 to allow NRDs to wait for the basin-wide plans to be completed.

The IMP was approved in May of 2009 and the NRD also revised the Rules and Regulations to correlate with the requirements in the IMP. In 2010, the DNR held an open comment period for the annual review of the basin IMPs. On March 22, 2012 a revised IMP was adopted and became effective on May 21, 2012.
Central Platte NRD, Nebraska Department of Natural Resources
Platte Basin Habitat Conservation Coalition

Within the Platte River Basin, people and nature both depend on the life-supporting water course, marked by a gallery of trees and green fields filled with a variety of crops. Wildlife depends on the river's habitats to survive. The Platte Basin Habitat Enhancement Project (PBHEP) was established to provide an added solution to help landowners in Nebraska's Platte River Basin meet the region's water needs, for wildlife and for the state's valuable agricultural economy.

PBHEP hopes to accomplish this by helping landowners make transitions that can maintain economic health, while at the same time reduce depletions to the river. This can be accomplished by taking advantage of a variety of conservation projects. Landowners can choose easements or other projects that fit their operations best, using cost share dollars to ease the costs associated with the transition.
Central Platte NRD, North Platte NRD,
south Platte NRD,
Tri-Basin NRD, twin Platte NRD, NE Dept. of Natural Resources, NE Game & Parks Commission
Platte River Recovery Program

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The Platte River Recovery Implementation Program (PRRIP), also known as the Platte River Program, was developed by the federal government along with basin states of Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming and signed in 2006. Local, state and federal government agencies are working with groups from throughout the basin to build a framework for a long-term Program that will satisfy Endangered Species Act (ESA) requirements for water users in the basin.

The first PRRIP increment, planned to last 13 years, includes completion of water projects expected to improve flows in the central Platte by an average of 130,000-150,000 acre-feet annually. A second Program element is the protection and maintenance of 10,000 acres of habitat during the first increment, ultimately working toward a 29,000-acre goal. The specifics of subsequent increments will be planned as more information is developed. Through an adaptive management process, the Program goals may be modified as appropriate. U.S. Dept. of Interior-U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the states of Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming.
Platte River Conjunctive Management Study

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The Platte River Conjunctive Water Management study creates tools to better manage ground and surface water in the Central Platte Valley by collecting and evaluating data to develop a hydrologic budget. Some of the components included in the budget are rainfall, pumping, surface water applied, total evapotranspiration, recharge, runoff and acreage. The concept of conjunctive management is that surface and ground water resources are hydrologically interconnected, and decisions to improve the management of one can’t be made properly without considering the other. Hence management should consider surface and ground water as components of one resource.

CPNRD’s hydrologist provides technical assistance in the development and evaluation of conjunctive management scenarios for portions of Dawson and Buffalo counties in the central Platte Valley. The team is developing a conjunctive water resource management plan to optimize the availability of water to groundwater and surface water users who are within both the boundaries of the CPNRD and the area within which NPPD delivers natural flow and storage water for surface water irrigation systems. The plan will be consistent with Nebraska statutes regarding the management of integrated surface water and groundwater.
Central Platte NRD, NE Department of Natural Resources, Nebraska Public Power District, The Flatwater Group
Long Range Implementation Plan

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The Central Platte NRD is required to prepare and adopt a long range implementation plan under the Nebraska Natural Resources District Act. Section 2-3277 of the Nebraska statutes requires each NRD to prepare and adopt five-year Long Range Implementation Plans and under Section 2-3278 to “prepare and adopt any individual project plans as it deems necessary to carry out projects approved by the district.”

This plan summarizes the planned district activities and includes projections of financial, manpower and land right needs of the district for the next five years, as well as a specific needs assessment upon which the NRD’s long range implementation plan is reviewed and updated.
Master Plan

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All 23 Nebraska Natural Resources Districts have filed a Comprehensive Resources Plan (Master Plan) in accordance with state statutes (Section 2-3276). The same section also requires the NRD to update its master plan “as often as deemed necessary by the district, but in no event less often than once each ten years.” Section 2-3280 of the state statutes requires that “ no state funds shall be allocated or disbursed to a district unless that district has submitted its master plan...and until the disbursing agency has determined that such funds are for plans, facilities, works, and programs which are in conformance with the plans of the agency.”
Conjunctive Water Management
Conjunctive water management is a fairly new concept to the Central Platte NRD and to the state of Nebraska. Surface water and groundwater typically have a natural hydrologic connection, so managing them together utilizes that connection to improve the overall reliability and availability of water resources. It also minimizes impacts to stream flow and to groundwater levels.

Conjunctive management utilizes or stores excess surface water when it’s available and relies on groundwater during dry periods. It can also change the timing and location of water, so it can be used more efficiently.

The Dawson County Canals within the CPNRD are examples of conjunctive management. CPNRD made improvements to the Cozad Canal, Thirty Mile Canal, and Southside Canal through complete rehabilitation of each canal. Results have shown enhanced stream flows to the Platte River, reduced consumptive uses of water, groundwater recharge, and enhanced wildlife habitat.

This approach helps to satisfy the endangered species requirements of the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program between the states of Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming; and the U.S. Department of Interior. It also helps meet the requirements of LB 962 to return the Platte River to its 1997 level of use determined to be 3,400 acre/feet (AF); which will also help CPNRD get closer to a fully appropriated status. Together, the three canals have the potential to provide up to 40,000 AF of water savings annually.

The partnerships between the CPNRD and the canal companies- Cozad Ditch, Thirty Mile Irrigation District, Southside Irrigation District- were fundamental in establishing conjunctive management of the water supplies; and showcases what can happen when groundwater and surface water users work toward a common goal.