Groundwater Management Rules & Regulations *Reminder: Transfer applications for irrigated acres accepted September 1-March 1.
Spring Groundwater Levels Continue to Increase in the Central Platte NRD
6/25/2020 Average spring groundwater levels across the District had an accumulated gain of 3.29 feet from spring 1982 to spring 2020. Groundwater levels are averaged from the 413 observation and irrigation wells that NRD staff read annually from mid-April to mid-June; which consists of one well per every three miles. Additional observation wells will be installed this fall. A majority of the NRD’s 24 Ground Water Management Areas (GWMAs) saw increases because of above-average precipitation during 2019 that continued through this spring. Last year’s groundwater levels were also up 2.08 feet compared to 1982 because of the above-normal precipitation. MAP: 1982-2020 Accumulated Change in Groundwater Levels
A comparison of the 1982 levels were established as the standard for Central Platte’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 (GWMAs).
Six of the 24 GWMAs are currently below the 1982 groundwater levels and subject to the 25% decline regulation that does not allow transfers of irrigated acres into the areas or supplemental wells. In 2012, the NRD’s Rules and Regulations began requiring the areas to stay in suspension for five years to lessen additional declines. If the water table would fall to 50% of the maximum decline, Phase II would go into effect requiring mandatory reductions in irrigated acres.
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 dnr.nebraska.gov or by telephone at (402) 471-2363.
Integrated Management Plan PDF
The Second Increment Joint Integrated Management Plan (IMP) was 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 dnr.nebraska.gov or by telephone at (402) 471-2363.
2009 Integrated Management Plan
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
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.
RECENT BOARD ACTION
1/23/20 Violation Report 12 landowners/producers irrigated land that isn’t certified or approved for irrigation through a transfer in 2019. The number of violations has continued to drop each year. Violation letters were mailed to resolve the violations. If the land continues to be irrigated without certifying the acres in question, a cease and desist order will be issued and violators could face action in District Court.
8/29/19 – Schroeder Property JEO Consulting is evaluating management alternatives for property purchased in Dawson County. The 157-acre property was purchased in April 2018 with the intention of retiring the pivot and gaining 107 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 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 of 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 begin releasing water for irrigation as determined by CPNRD.
07/25/19- Rewrite Management Plan Olsson is rewriting 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 CPNRD 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.
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.
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 Rehabilitation 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 were 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.
Airborne Electromagnetic Results
Jim Cannia, AquaGeo Frameworks, gave a final report on the Airborne Electromagnetic (AEM) survey saying the study provides the NRD with improved water table data and geological data. The Study will help 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.
2019 Groundwater Level Reports
Historic Groundwater Level Increases from Spring to Fall
CPNRD saw historic groundwater level increases in 2019. Of the 363 wells read by staff in both the spring and the fall in 2019, there was a district-wide gain of 0.76 feet from Gothenburg to Columbus. With crop irrigation that normally takes place from May until August in central Nebraska, it is unusual to have wells that record an increase from spring to fall. The historic precipitation that the District received attributed to 210 of the well levels increasing an average of 2.51 feet; and 153 wells that declined an average of 1.65 feet. 20 of the wells recorded their highest groundwater level and 50 wells had readings in the top 10% of their respective historic range. Most of the wells have been monitored each spring and fall by the CPNRD since the mid-1980s.
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 cpnrd.gisworkshop.com.
Erosion & Sediment Control Plan (updated 2017)
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 electromagnetic 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 a $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.
CPNRD 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.
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.
September 2019 The Water Service Agreements with Central Platte NRD, NPPD, and Central NPP&ID were approved. The Agreements 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 The Program’s Governance Committee’s (GC) recent meeting in Kearney that included discussion on 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.
Your Contact: Lyndon Vogt, general manager