Groundwater Management Rules & Regulations          *Transfer Application for Irrigated Acres

30-Year Acreage Reserve Program

In January 2021, the board added a section to CPNRD’s Ground Water Management Program Rules and Regulations titled Section B-Rule 8: 30-Year Acreage Reserve Program-Participation Eligibility and Rules. The 30-Year Acreage Reserve Program will provide a long-term solution in protecting surface water rights. Irrigation districts will sign up for the conservation program and surface water users will have the option to opt-in or opt-out of the program annually.
A public hearing on the addition was held prior to the board meeting with minor amendments entered into record at the hearing. The Program was developed to ensure that supplies in the Platte Basin are optimized and managed efficiently with maximum benefits and to meet water management obligations for the Basin-Wide Plan for Joint Integrated Water Resources Management of Over-Appropriated Portions of the Platte River Basin, CPNRD’s Integrated Management Plan, and Nebraska’s New Depletion Plan for the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program. The Program will take effect on March 4, 2021.  CHANGES

Ground Water Management Plan Update

At the November Board meeting, Karen Griffith, Project Manager of Olsson Engineering Service, provided a progress report to the Water Quantity Committee on updates to the NRD’s Ground Water Management Plan. Griffith reported that Olsson has evaluated the current plan triggers, updated data sets and maps, and has run over 200 scenarios with the Cooperative Hydrology Study model (COHYST) the Groundwater Evaluation Toolkit (GET) to predict what may happen with future management options. The committee requested that Olsson run a couple of additional scenarios as they continue updating the plan.

Department of Natural Resources Update

Also at the November Board meeting, Jesse Bradley, Assistant Director, and Jennifer Schellpeper, Division Head, of the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources reported to the board on a program being developed to fine-tune the water management framework for surface water and groundwater users. The program would bring together state Integrated Management Plan goals providing long-term certainty for the Platte Basin.
Partners include the five Platte Basin Natural Resources Districts (Central Platte, North Platte, South Platte, Twin Platte, Tri-Basin), Nebraska Department of Natural Resources, Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District, Nebraska Public Power District, and the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program. Financial contributions from the partners would allow for a long-term funding source for groundwater recharge provided by the surface water irrigation districts and other entities. Bradley said the partners will continue to pursue conversations to implement a plan within the next two years.

2020: Groundwater Levels Continue to Increase

The 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.  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.  PDF: Groundwater Level Comparison 1982-2020

2019: 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. Four of the 24 GWMAs are currently in the 25% 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% 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% of the maximum decline, Phase II would go into effect requiring mandatory reductions in irrigated acres. 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). 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. 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 also available at  Your Contact:  Luke Zakrzewski  


Applications Accepted September 1st – March 1st for Irrigated Acre Transfers

Transfer Application
Landowners may request a change in the location of certified irrigated acres (transfer) provided that the same amount of water that would be depleted from the river over a 50-year period from consumptive use of groundwater withdrawals are retired from use (offset); and the offset occurs at the same time, rate, and location as the depletion identified by the Cooperative Hydrodrology Study (COHYST) model.
The location of the offset is considered the same as the depletion if the offset is:
> west of the depletion
> no more than 1 mile east of north/south line drawn along eastern edge of area causing the new depletion
> within the same basin of influence
Offsets must be a minimum of 1 acre and any excess water would accrue to the benefit of streamflow. To learn more about transferring irrigated acres, contact Luke Zakrzewski or Angela Warner at (308) 385-6282.

Groundwater Quantity Management Program

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.

2019 Annual Report of Water Use Activities in the Central Platte NRD (PDF)

Development of Groundwater Quantity 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.

MAPS:    CPNRD Mean Saturated Thickness: Quaternary & Ogallala    
Your CPNRD staff contacts:  Brandi Flyr  |  Luke Zakrzewski    |  Dan Clement   |   Angela Warner


Recent Board Action

1/28/21  Violation Report  45 landowners/producers irrigated land that wasn’t certified or approved for irrigation through a transfer in 2020. There were 35 new violations ranging from 1.04 to 207.18 acres. Two of the violations were repeat offenses. Landowners will be notified that they are in violation of the NRD’s Rules and Regulations and that they need to contact the NRD to get into compliance by March 3, 2021.
9/3/20  Invasive Weed Management   The board approved a motion to invest $500,000 over three years in an endowment for the Platte Valley Weed Management Area (PVWMA) to fund the annual cost of maintaining water conveyance in the Platte River.  Since 2009, the PVWMA has treated approximately 26,000 acres of invasive plant species within flowing channels of the Platte River in Dawson, Buffalo, Hall, Merrick, Hamilton and Polk counties within the NRD.
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 Need for a Water Bank

In 2007, the concept of a “water bank” was new to us in the Central Platte NRD and to the state of Nebraska. Former general manager Ron Bishop said landowners would play a major role in whether the water bank would be successful. If the NRD does not acquire water rights from landowners, the only way to make up the required depletions in the District is to regulate. “We want to stay away from regulation as much as can,” Bishop said.

Every acre-foot of water that impacts the river that the NRD can acquire, means that much less regulation and cutback the NRD would have to impose. That’s why the CPNRD Board of Directors diligently discussed details about how a water bank should be set up and maintained. On May 24, 2007, the board approved the Central Platte NRD Water Banking Policy which defines the process of a how a water bank would work.

Learn more about the actual process and the two developments that made the establishment of a “water bank” of critical importance in the District.  Water Bank Newsletter


Integrated Management Plans

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 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 or by telephone at (402) 471-2363.


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 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.

Learn more:  Surface Water Canal Partnerships