Groundwater Quantity Management Program

Groundwater Management Rules & Regulations 

*Reminder:  Transfer applications for irrigated acres are accepted from September 1- March 1.

Basin-Wide Plan & CPNRD Integrated Management Plan

Basin-Wide Plan   PDF

The Board approved the proposed Second Increment Basin-Wide Plan for Joint Integrated Water Resources Management of Overappropriated Portions of the Platte River Basin, developed by the Platte Basin Natural Resources Districts (North Platte, South Platte, Central Platte, Twin Platte,  Tri-Basin NRDs), and the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources. The geographic area of the Plan is the extent of 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 proposed 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.

The Districts and Department will make a joint decision within 60 days on whether to implement the proposed plan with or without modifications. Further information may be requested at (308) 385-6282, or the Department’s website at or by telephone at (402) 471-2363.

Integrated Management Plan    PDF

The board approved the proposed Second Increment Joint Integrated Management Plan (IMP) cooperatively developed by Central Platte NRD and the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources.  The geographic area subject to the proposed IMP is the entirety of the land area within the District boundary.  A general description of the contents of the proposed IMP includes the following: Effective Date; Authority; Maps and Management Area Boundaries; Vision; Funding; Science and Methods; First Increment Accomplishments; Goals and Objectives; and Action Items, which include Controls and Triggers, and Monitoring and Evaluation.  The District 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.

The Department 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 may be requested at (308) 385-6282, or the Department’s website at or by telephone at (402) 471-2363.
 2009 Integrated Management Plan

An information session and public hearings were held on both the IMP and Basin-Wide plans on July 15, 2019, with testimony submitted by the Central Nebraska Public Power District and the Nebraska Public Power District. After reviewing the testimony provided, CPNRD and NeDNR concluded that amendments to the proposed plans were not necessary.


Groundwater Quantity Management

Central Platte NRD’s Groundwater Management Quantity goal is to assure an adequate supply of water for feasible and beneficial uses through proper management, conservation, development and utilization of the District’s water resources. CPNRD collects groundwater level observations and administers programs for irrigation runoff, groundwater quantity,  groundwater quality, groundwater modeling, and is developing a surface water flow model for a comprehensive groundwater and surface water management program. Annual Water Use Summary


8/29/19 – Schroeder Property  The board selected JEO Consulting to evaluate management alternatives for property purchased in Dawson County in the amount of $109,620. Proposals were also received by EA, Olsson, and the Flatwater Group.  The 157-acre property was purchased in April 2018 with the intention of retiring the pivot and gaining 107 acre-feet (AF).

CPNRD intends to retire the groundwater irrigated acres to receive benefits from the retirement, but also wishes to evaluate other potential uses of the property to maximize the hydrologic benefit to meet requirements of the Integrated Management Plan, the Basin-Wide Plan for Integrated Water Resources Management for over-appropriated areas in the Platte River Basin, and Nebraska’s New Depletions Plan.

8/29/19 -Recharge Agreement  A recharge agreement with the Nebraska Community Foundation for the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program was approved. The agreement changes the way the CPNRD is paid for groundwater recharge via seepage through the Six Mile, Cozad, Thirty Mile and Orchard Alfalfa canals in the non-irrigation season. The total amount diverted will be measured by CPNRD using automated measuring and recording gates and adjusted by subtracting any deliveries or releases made and recorded by the irrigation district. The non-irrigation season will begin when the canals stop releasing water for irrigation and end when the canals begins releasing water for irrigation as determined by CPNRD.

07/25/19  Olsson was selected to rewrite the NRD’s Groundwater Management Plan (GMP) in the amount of $102,000.  Olsson will incorporate new data and insight acquired since the approval of the plan in 1985. As mandated by the legislature in the early 1980s, the Central Platte NRD prepared a comprehensive GMP based on the hydrogeologic, climate, and socioeconomic information available at the time. Since 1985, the NRD has acquired and developed significant data and information about the groundwater resources in its district. Over the last 35 years, the rules and regulations implemented by the NRD have changed significantly and groundwater management goals have evolved. For these reasons, the NRD requested proposals to ensure that the rules and regulations currently implemented by the district are in sync with what is written in the plan. The other proposal was submitted by JEO Consulting for $149,000.

Policy Changes to the Groundwater Management Plan (as of November 2018)
*Irrigation  New wells that irrigate new acres are not allowed. Supplemental & replacement wells are still allowed.
*Transfer Schedule  Transfer applications for irrigated acres will be accepted from September 1- March 1.
*Sub-Area Transfer  A sub-area is required to stay under the transfer limit rule for 5 consecutive years.  Transfers & supplemental wells are not allowed until the sub-area groundwater level exceeds 25% of the maximum acceptable decline.


Reoperation of Surface Water Canals: Putting Water Back to the Platte River

The NRD has been proactive in creating new ways to increase irrigation efficiency, protect water supplies, and increase flows to the river in Dawson County by working with the canal companies in the area. The Canal Rehab Project was initiated by former general manager Ron Bishop as the first conjunctive water management project in the District.  2015 marked the first year that all three of CPNRD’s irrigation canal rehabilitations in Dawson County has been in full operation. The Cozad Ditch, Thirty Mile Irrigation District, and South Side Irrigation District produced needed returns back to the Platte River from both excess flows and natural flow diversions, as they were designed to do.  History/Details of the Canal Rehabs


CPNRD Integrated Management Plan

May 23, 2019  The Central Platte NRD board of directors took action to approve the Basin-Wide and Individual Integrated Management Plan drafts to hold public hearings on July 15, 2019, at 3:00 and 3:30 p.m. respectively. A public information meeting will be held at 2:30 p.m. just prior to the hearings. The original plans were approved in 2009 with a requirement that the same parties develop a second increment within 10 years after the adoption of the first increment plans.  The Basin-Wide and CPNRD Integrated Management plans were implemented to ensure that Nebraska is following the Nebraska New Depletions Plan included within the Platte River Recovery Implementation Plan. Additional details are available on the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources website at

 Basin-Wide IMP Goals

  1. Incrementally achieve and sustain a fully appropriated condition, while maintaining economic viability, social and environmental health, safety, and welfare of the basin.
  2. Prevent or mitigate human-induced reductions in the flow of a river or stream that would cause non-compliance with an interstate compact or decree or other formal state contract or agreement.
  3. Partner with municipalities and industries to maximize conservation and water use efficiency.
  4. Work cooperatively to identify and investigate disputes between groundwater users and surface water appropriators and, if determined appropriate, implement management solutions to address such issues.
  5. Keep the Upper Platte River Basin-Wide Plan current and keep stakeholders informed.

The major change in CPNRD’s IMP second increment plan is the amount of water needed to comply with Nebraska’s New Depletion Plan. That Plan requires CPNRD to put water back into the Platte River to equal the level it was at in 1997. During the first increment, best science at the time showed that CPNRD needed to add 1,900 acre-feet to reach the 1997 level.  With newer data, the Plan now requires CPNRD to return 17,000 acre-feet. The increase is due to depletions caused by the addition of 84,900 acres after 1997 in the District. CPNRD has several projects that will assist in meeting the second increment goals.


2019 Spring Groundwater Level Report

Spring Water Levels Increase Throughout Central Platte NRD

The average 2019 spring groundwater levels across the District increased 2.08 feet since 1982. These levels are averaged from the 437 wells that NRD staff read this year from mid-April to mid-June.  Zakrzewski said all 24 GWMAs saw increases because of timely rains during the 2018 irrigation season that continued throughout the fall, and 200 to 300 percent above normal precipitation this spring.

The 1982 levels were established as the standard for the NRD’s Groundwater Management Plan with maximum acceptable declines and a margin of safety calculated for each of the District’s 24 Ground Water Management Areas (GWMA).

Four of the 24 GWMAs are currently in the 25 percent decline suspension that does not allow transfers of irrigated acres into the areas or supplemental wells.  The NRD’s rules and regulations require the areas to stay in suspension for five years. Two of the four areas in suspension are above the 25 percent decline for the second consecutive year, while the remaining two areas are showing an increase for their first year.  If the water table would fall to 50 percent of the maximum decline, Phase II would go into effect requiring mandatory reductions in irrigated acres.

Central Platte NRD serves 11 counties including all of Dawson and parts of Frontier, Custer Buffalo, Hall, Howard, Nance, Merrick, Hamilton, Platte, and Polk. Interactive maps are available at



Download this map. 
Interactive maps are also available at  
Your Contact:  Luke Zakrzewski  

                                                   Rural-Urban Partnership Helps Clean Water Supply

Development of Groundwater Quantity Management Program

Nebraska leads the nation in irrigation production with over 8 million irrigated acres. Being in the Platte River Watershed, the District’s primary surface water feature is the Platte River. However, most farmers rely on groundwater for their irrigation needs since groundwater is abundantly available across the District. Water supply is under continuous monitoring throughout the District and a groundwater supply management plan to address potential shortages has been adopted by the NRD’s board of directors and has been in effect since 1987. Groundwater aquifer declines have been documented where irrigation use is the heaviest. Groundwater is the District’s chief source of drinking water and primary economic resource of the NRD since we depend on it for irrigation; which, in turn, enables us to have a strong economy rooted in agriculture.

If there was any doubt that we need to take care of this resource, it should’ve been dispelled by declining water tables in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Rainfall increased in the mid-1980s/1990s, which caused water tables to rise, but the historical record suggests complete groundwater recovery from the dry periods during the wet periods does not always occur in all areas. Careful management of the resource is necessary. Aquifer thickness varies from 25-300+ feet across the district, so a drop of one foot has a more significant impact on some parts of the District than on others. Groundwater depths and thicknesses are charted and used to help establish 24 groundwater supply management areas. Besides the aquifer conditions, the soils and topographic characteristics are similar in each management area.

The 1982 groundwater levels were established as the standard for the management plan since rainfall and recharge were above average several years since 1982. The maximum acceptable decline for each of the management areas was calculated, establishing a margin of safety in each area. It was determined that as an area’s average groundwater level declined through that margin of safety, certain controls ought to be mandated to slow the decline.

In 1987, the board established the Groundwater Management Plan with a phased program to implement controls when 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 (5 and 15 feet respectively for each of the range parameters), 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 and 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.

Your CPNRD staff contacts:  Brandi Flyr  |  Luke Zakrzewski    |  Dan Clement   |   Angela Warner



Statewide Groundwater Management

Map     |    Summary    |     Restrictions on Irrigation

 Nebraska Groundwater Management & Protection Act

Erosion & Sediment Control Plan  (updated 2017)



Platte River Recovery Implementation Program

CPNRD participates in the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program (PRRIP) with the states of Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming and the Department of Interior to find a solution for endangered species in the Central Platte Basin; as well as water rights for the landowners/operators in the District.  PRRIP was developed by the federal government along with the 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 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. 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.  PRRIP WEBSITE

CPNRD has a big stake in the Program’s goal to improve and conserve habitat for three threatened and endangered species on the central Platte (the whooping crane, piping plover, and least tern) and the endangered pallid sturgeon on the lower Platte. The Program was developed as the states and federal governments face stiff challenges to protect threatened and endangered species using the Platte River and their habitats.  The signatories to the Program hope to equitably provide greater certainty for water users facing ESA requirements. The U.S. FWS plays a major role in enforcing the ESA. Authorization legislation for federal funding was passed by Congress in 2008 and associated appropriations will be addressed in an ongoing process.  District board members, management, and staff are actively involved in Program Governance and Advisory Committees.

The Program is starting to develop a plan for the review of the U.S. FWS’s target flows for the Platte River.  Ongoing research and monitoring on the Platte are showing the Service’s current target flows to be ineffective in accomplishing the objectives they have set out.  The Program’s Land Advisory Committee includes a member/alternate from CPNRD, member/alternate from Tri-Basin NRD, and a joint member/alternate.  The Program’s Water Action Committee is looking at intentional groundwater recharge through diversions through the canal systems.  One of the projects that were done in fall and winter 2011, was to study recharge in the Phelps Canal, one of CNPPID canals just below the J-2 Return.  In 2013, the Program’s Governance Committee (GC) and CNPPID independently agreed to fund and develop the J2 Regulating Reservoirs at a cost of $13 million for five years.

In September 2015, CNPPID and its engineering contractor, RJH Consultants, Inc., provided the GC with a progress report on the development of the J2 Reservoirs Project which detailed significant increases in cost from the original estimate of $63 -$170 million, not including land acquisition.  The GC authorized the Program’s Executive Director to work with CNPPID and NDNR to evaluate J2 Project alternatives that can be accomplished within the available budget.  Central Platte, Twin Platte, and Tri-Basin NRDs each purchased a percentage of the Nebraska share. CPNRD purchased 20% of the State’s share (2,040 ac-ft annually) for just over $1.5 million.  In July of 2016, the GC directed the project be put on hold until further notice while the PRRIP pursues other water project opportunities involving groundwater recharge, smaller scale storage projects, and water acquisition and transfer opportunities.

In 2016, a contract with CPNRD and Aqua Geo Frameworks LLC was approved by the board for aerial electro-magnetic survey work.  The survey work includes additional coverage of flight lines to cover various project areas at a Program cost of $64,000.

Program Extension:  The Governance Committee approved $27.9 million FY2019 Budget and Work Plan, including $18 million for Water Plan implementation. The Committee is working on a proposed Lakeside Slurry Wall Pit Project and discussing other options because of increasing project costs and the prospect for cheaper water options. One option includes the continuance of the Central Platte NRD/Central Nebraska Public Power & Irrigation District pilot program. More discussion is needed with the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources regarding project permitting and operation. In May 2019, the CPNRD board approved a water exchange MOU with the Central Nebraska Public Power & Irrigation District for the second year of the project.

The Program’s continued funding of phragmites (and other noxious and invasive plant) control was also debated.  Wyoming’s opposition to their proportionate share has reduced phragmites control funding to $200,000 annually.  Several representatives on the Committee are changing including Mike Thabault from the Denver office of the USFWS, Don Kraus with Central NPP&ID (being replaced with Devin Brundage), and pending retirements by Don Ament from Colorado and Harry LaBonde from Wyoming.  The Downstream Water Users appointed Czaplewski as their representative on the Program’s Finance Committee.

Also in May 2019, the NRD signed a one-year extension request with NRCS for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).  In 2014, the NRD was awarded a five-year grant for the Ogallala Aquifer & Platte River Recovery project. The project addresses excess/insufficient water, inadequate habitat for fish and wildlife, soil erosion, water quality degradation, inefficient energy use, and air quality impacts.  The resource concerns meet environmental habitat needs under the Platte River Recovery and Implementation Program.

In June 2019, the Program’s Governance Committee was briefed on Congressional work to extend the first increment to 2032.  Senate Bill 990 and House bill 3237 were introduced and a hearing was held on the Senate bill.  There is broad regional support for the bills including co-sponsorship of the Senate bill by Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer. All three Nebraska Representatives have signed on as co-sponsors and Central Platte NRD submitted a letter of support for the extension.  Another item of interest was the approval of an NPPD surface water exchange agreement patterned after the agreement CPNRD worked out with Central NPP&ID.

Contact Mark Czaplewski, biologist.