Water Management Plans

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Water Activities in the Central Platte NRD    

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.

 

MANAGMENT PLANS AND AGREEMENTS
Upper Platte Basin-Wide Plan
The Second Increment Basin-Wide Plan for Joint Integrated Water Resources Management of Overappropriated Portions of the Platte River Basin, was developed by the Platte Basin Natural Resources Districts (North Platte, South Platte, Central Platte, Twin Platte, Tri-Basin NRDs) and the Nebraska Dept. of Natural Resources. Geographic area of the Plan is the Nebraska portion of the Platte River surface water basin beginning at the Nebraska-Wyoming State line and ending at the Kearney Canal Diversion, at Elm Creek. The Plan includes: 1) introduction; 2) planning process; 3) activities of the first increment; 4) goals, objectives, and action items; 5) monitoring. The plan does not include controls.

Further information may be requested from CPNRD at (308) 385-6282, NeDNR's website dnr.nebraska.gov or call (402) 471-2363.
CPNRD Integrated Management Plan (IMP)
The Second Increment Joint Integrated Management Plan (IMP) is cooperatively developed by Central Platte NRD and the Nebraska Dept. of Natural Resources (NeDNR).  The geographic area is the entirety of the land area within the District boundary. The IMP includes Effective Date; Authority; Maps/Management Area Boundaries; Vision; Funding; Science/Methods; First Increment Accomplishments; Goals/Objectives; and Action Items, which include Controls/Triggers, and Monitoring/Evaluation. CPNRD will continue existing groundwater controls which are: 1) groundwater moratorium, 2) certification of groundwater uses, 3) groundwater variances, 4) groundwater transfers, and 5) municipal and industrial accounting.

NeDNR will continue the existing surface water controls which are: 1) maintaining the moratorium on new surface water appropriations and on expanded surface water uses; 2) transfers of appropriations are subject to statutory criteria and Department rules; 3) continuation of surface water administration and monitoring of use of surface water; 4) no additional requirements of surface water appropriators to use additional conservation measures, and 5) no other reasonable restrictions on surface water use.

Further information or the full text may be requested at (308) 385-6282, or the Department’s website at dnr.nebraska.gov or by telephone at (402) 471-2363
Cooperative Hydrology Study (COHYST)
In 1997, Nebraska Governor Ben Nelson and the governors of Wyoming & 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 & 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. 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 streamflow as a result of new irrigated acres between1997-2005. Changes in streamflow 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. Estimates are used in the Platte River Basin plan as targets for streamflow depletions needed to be offset to get back to 1997 level of development.
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 show that excess flows from the Dawson County canals are 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. Because of the differences in the aquifer depth and conditions, 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 the enforcement of cease & desist procedures and removal of the 2 in 10 irrigation rule. Additions made in 2018: language regarding wells, a timeline for transfer applications, changed the number of years transfers are not allowed from 2 to 5 years within a GWMA where declines are more than the 25% allowable level. Water Quantity Page
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.
Platte River Recovery Program
The PRRIP was developed by the federal government along with the basin states of Nebraska, Colorado, and Wyoming and signed in 2006 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 ac/ft 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.
On Dec. 21, 2019, President Trump signed two spending packages that included the PRRIP Extension Act; extending the Program for 13 more years.   
The Water Service Agreements for the Program with Central Platte NRD, NPPD, and Central NPP&ID are similar in their term and payment rates for recharge water.  CPNRD’s agreement for groundwater recharge runs through the end of 2024 and starts with a 2020 price per acre-foot of water of $32.87 and escalates at 3% per year with a cap of 5,000 acre-feet.
March 2020 Update:  The GC discussed the Upper Platte Basin Robust Review results and Second Increment planning. Nebraska is in full compliance with its New Depletions Plan and is achieving Milestone 9 of the Program’s extension document. Future Robust Reviews are planned for 2023 and 2027. The Executive Director’s office discussed the 2019 “State of the Platte” report, the Independent Science Advisory Committee’s response to it, and plans on how to move forward with review and update of Platte River target flows. Jason Farnsworth, executive director, was appointed as the Program’s Fund Advisory Committee member to the Platte River Resilience Fund.
Long Range Implementation Plan
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.
MasterPlan 2011-2021
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.
Airborne Electromagnetic Survey
The Airborne Electromagnetic (AEM) survey provides CPNRD with improved water table data and geological data. The Study helps the NRD to make determinations such as where additional wells may be drilled, where vadose zone and recharge monitoring may be needed, and where water table boundaries are located.

Airborne surveys are conducted with a helicopter and cover large areas quickly with minimal impacts to local activities and the environment. 3-D maps, produced by integrating airborne geophysics with other information, provide powerful tools for locating local features of the aquifer system important to water managers. These maps can be combined with a water table elevation map to provide the geometry of the aquifer including, locations of the most saturated thickness, heterogeneity of aquifer materials, recharge zones, lithologic barriers to groundwater flow, and connections to the surface water system.

Cannia said the survey team flew 2-3 flights per day at 100-150 feet above the ground. The data was collected every 100 feet, providing better detail than current test-holes that provide data every six miles.  The maps also indicate where preferential flow paths may exist, which is particularly important for understanding base flow to streams and interpreting water quality samples in relation to the various stresses in the system. Ultimately, this information will be used to site wells, focused-recharge areas, facility construction, and many other areas of interest when considering the impact on the aquifer. This data will be used for the NRD’s groundwater models to do predictive analysis of management scenarios.