Irrigation Management

Live Weather Telemetry Readings

Click the links below to view live weather readings from our Chapman, Cozad and Husker Harvest Days Telemetry Sites. Once you are on the site, you can see the progressive values of the graph entries. To display the values: Left-click then hold and drag your mouse along the graph.

                       Chapman Weather Station              Cozad Weather Station           Husker Harvest Days Weather Station

Crop Irrigation Links

Growth Stage  Proper staging of your crop is important when estimating crop water use. For example, four-leaf corn will use much less water than tasseling corn. To stage your crop, use this Stage of Growth Chart with descriptions and pictures. It includes the crop coefficients (Kc) for nine Nebraska crops: corn, soybeans, wheat, grain sorghum, sunflowers, sugar beets, potatoes and dry beans.

Crop Water Use for Growing Season (Corn & Soybeans)

The weekly ETgage change value multiplied by your crop stage’s crop coefficient (Kc) will give you your crop’s estimated water use.
(ETgage website)

If you are using the watermark sensors, knowing the soil type of the field is also important. UNL’s Growth Stage Charts



UNL Taps Sponsorship The Central Platte NRD is a sponsor of UNL’s Testing Ag Performance Solutions (TAPS) program. TAP’s teams work together to find solutions through innovation, entrepreneurialism, technology, improved techniques and cutting-edge methodologies for farms to maintain profitability, sustainability, and productivity.

Watch for updates as Dean Krull, demonstration project coordinator, competes in the 2020 TAPS program. To learn more about TAPS visit

Fertigation Trials

As new technology develops to help farmers practice better management, the District’s board modifies cost-share programs to accommodate new tools to manage fertilizer and water use since reductions in the amounts of applied water normally produce less leaching than just a reduction of fertilizer inputs.  The NRD also monitors well outputs in Phase II and Phase III of the Groundwater Management Program.  Cost-Share Programs

Demonstration technologies include ET Gage, watermark sensors for scheduling irrigation, soil moisture capacitance probes, application of a polymer material to an irrigated field to evaluate its effects on leaching of nitrate-nitrogen, slow-release or controlled-release nitrogen fertilizer products, and nitrogen fixation using cover crops in seed corn. The UNL Extension and demonstration efforts in areas of irrigation management have been influential in the adoption of more efficient ways of irrigation.  The project coordinator, Dean Krull, has been working with the NRD since 1984 and has an office in the NRD headquarters. Krull also contributes articles in the NRD’s In Perspective newsletter to educate producers on the results of the demonstrations and on best management practices.



Crop and Irrigation Demand Network

Started in 2013, this program receives data collected with the Adcon Telemetry program which provides a vast amount of real-time data. The program allows the NRD to view information such as water usage and soil moisture from fields where producers have installed telemetry meters.  The program allows landowners the opportunity to check their own readings such as gallons per minute used, inches applied each day and throughout the season, and soil moisture readings through a website called McCrometer Connect. This advanced program was initiated through the NRD in 2013.   The NRD is planning the same level of data collection for the next four years with the goal to enhance and expand the program. There were 11 meters installed in 7 of the Groundwater Management Areas (GMAs) during the 2013 irrigation season.  To date, there are 30 data collection sites established in 10 of the 24 GMAs collecting daily water pumped, rainfall, system pressure, and at some of the locations soil moisture.  Partners include DNR, UNL Extension, Seim Ag Technology, CPNRD, and McCrometer.


In 2019, 21 farmers in the District enrolled in the Central Nebraska Irrigation Project, bringing the total enrolled tally to 40 producers. These producers are using the Arable Mark field-level weather and crop monitoring device. It collects over 40 different data streams on precipitation, ET, solar radiation, plant health, weather, harvest timing, wind, & soil moisture. The Project also includes the use of pivot telemetry and flow meters.

The three-year water project was initiated by The Nature Conservancy, Nestlé Purina, and Cargill to improve the sustainability of the beef supply chain. This project will research reduction of the environmental impact of row crop irrigation in Nebraska and provide a scalable irrigation solution for farmers across the U.S.  More than 50% of water used in U.S. beef production is dedicated to irrigating the row crops that become feed for cattle. By putting first-of-its-kind, cost-effective irrigation technology in the hands of farmers, this project studies if the amount of water needed for row crop irrigation is greatly reduced. The Nebraska project enables farmers to make more informed irrigation decisions, by installing smart weather sensors in crop fields and using the Internet of Things (IoT) technology on sprinklers connected to a smartphone app.

Nebraska was selected for the project, as it has the largest share of irrigated acres in the U.S. and the second-largest cattle population. The Ogallala Aquifer, which spans the majority of the state, provides water to nearly one-fifth of wheat, corn, cotton, and cattle produced in the U.S. and is the main water supply for people throughout the High Plains region. Grower and conservation efforts maintain the wetlands and sandbar islands of the Platte River, which provides habitat and clean water for people and wildlife.

“This project builds upon the success of a 2014 pilot in Western Nebraska, where we studied irrigation patterns and examined the impact on watersheds,” said Roric Paulman, Farmer Advisor of the Western Nebraska Irrigation Project. “Through collaborations like these, we will leave a legacy of water quantity and quality for generations.”

How to Properly Apply Nitrogen FertilizerManaging Subsurface Drip IrrigationDrip Irrigation Use to Protect Soil & Water


Irrigated Acres in CPNRD

Central Platte NRD has a total of 1,029,213 irrigated acres of which 937,674 acres are groundwater only; 14,359 acres are surface water only and 77,180 acres are a co-mingled use.  The overall irrigated acres base increased 12,624 acres, in part to acres still being certified, two years of additional acres being added east of Chapman, NE; and because of the transfer process, which allows for the consumptive use of water to be changed, without causing an increase in depletions to the river or an impact to existing surface water or groundwater users.

Certification of Irrigated Acres

All irrigated acres are certified, including variances and water bank transactions.  In 2006, CPNRD began certifying irrigated acres by mailing out packets to landowners who live in Custer, Dawson, and Frontier counties. To ensure accuracy, landowners were provided aerial maps and the number of acres  CPNRD had on record as irrigated taken from infrared imagery. Landowners who appealed the number of acres were required to obtain records from their local FSA office; including an aerial photo and a printout of irrigated land. Most changes made were >10 acres while 1/3 of the fields determined as irrigated needed no changes. The deadline to certify irrigated acres was December 31, 2014.   Irrigation violation letters were mailed to 12 landowners in 2019.


CPNRD allows an average of 120 transfers each year. Each transfer results in no net increase in stream depletions when computed using the CIR offset calculator developed from COHYST.   In 2007, CPNRD launched the first irrigation certification website in the state, developed by GIS Workshop.  It allows public access to scanned documents to show the number of irrigated acres for landowners in the District, infrared imagery taken by CPNRD, & all registered wells. Users may search for specific parcels of land by using the clickable map interface or by searching the site by landowner/tenant name, legal description, or field ID number. The site allows landowners to view/print aerial photos to show how their land has developed since 2003 and view any improvements made. The website was overhauled in 2011 and again in 2015 to add new search options, access drawing tools to create proposed transfer maps, and print maps. The public and staff sites are linked, so all information is simultaneous.  Website:

Irrigation Well Registration  

Staff verifies and corrects well registrations within the NRD. Under Neb Rev Stat. §46-254, 263, & 266; wells that aren’t properly registered are “illegal wells” and considered a Class 4 criminal misdemeanor violation. The penalty is a $100-$500 fine/conviction. Another consequence is a court order to discontinue pumping. Often wells are part of property inventory when ownership changes hands and it becomes the new property owner’s responsibility to verify the registration. The Nebraska Department of Natural Resources (NeDNR) charges a $110 fee to register each well, whether it is newly dug or is an existing well that has never been previously registered. There is no charge from the CPNRD or the state to correct locations or change ownership information.
Click here for more details Wells


Restrictions on Irrigation- History

Suspension on Drilling New Wells and Expansion of Irrigated Acres 

In 2006, the District was placed in a suspension area when the Board adopted the Rules and Regulations For Closing the Management Area to the Issuance of New Well Permits, Preventing the Expansion of Irrigated Acres and Increased or Expanded Uses of Groundwater for Other Beneficial Purposes.  The rules were necessary after NeDNR designated the entire District as fully appropriated.  The Plan has been amended several times and is now titled Rules & Regulations for Groundwater Use in Fully and Over Appropriated Areas.  The rules and regulations were combined to form Enforcement of the Nebraska Groundwater Management & Protection Act: General Provisions & Procedures for Enforcement.

The original suspension was imposed in November 2003, when the board imposed a temporary suspension of drilling new wells within parts of the District. The suspension allowed CPNRD & NeDNR to look over the conflicts between groundwater and surface water to determine if a problem exists by developing a study of the district’s surface and groundwater supplies.  In 2004, NeDNR indicated that the Platte River Basin was fully appropriated and in some places, especially upstream from Elm Creek, over-appropriated. The changes were made so that existing surface and/or groundwater users wouldn’t be faced with less water supply.  Wells not subject to the suspension included: wells that pump less than 50 gpm, replacement wells, dewatering wells pumping less than 90 days, and test hole wells. Variances were granted if determined that construction of a new well was necessary to alleviate an emergency situation involving the provision of water for human consumption or upon other good cause shown. Public hearings were held throughout the district in 2003 to discuss the temporary suspension. Of the 450 in attendance, 237 responded to opinion surveys handed out at the hearings with 166 of those who responded were very opposed.

Three situations influenced the passing of the suspension. The first was the drought cycle that Nebraska was in, which exemplified the need to “take stock” of the water budget. Two other influences were the introduction of LB962 following a recommendation by the Water Policy Task Force; and unknown future requirements of the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program. Nebraska was required to offset any new depletions after July 1997 as part of the Program. If the State doesn’t pick up their obligation, the NRDs or water users would be required to offset depletions from post-1997 wells by giving up part of their irrigated acres.

Water Sustainability Funds (WSF)  

In 2013, the Nebraska Legislature and Governor Heineman approved the Water Sustainability Fund, a permanent funding source to ensure that Nebraska’s water resources are managed effectively and efficiently.  The Nebraska Natural Resources Commission (NRC) oversees WSF operations including application review, scoring & ranking, and awarding funding to successful applicants. The Department of Natural Resources (NeDNR) administers the WSF fund by initially reviewing the newly filed applications and forwarding those that meet minimum statutory requirements to the NRC. Once the NRC awards funding to a project, NeDNR enters into a contract with the project sponsor, reviews reimbursement requests, disperses funds, and monitors project progress. Of the annual funding appropriated by the Legislature, 10% is designated by statute for projects separating storm and sewer water. The NRC also reserves ten percent for projects requesting $250,000 or less.   Neb. Rev. Stat. § 2-1506 priorities:

  • Ensure that water projects funded through the Water Sustainability Fund demonstrate the ability to contribute to the goals of water sustainability for the state by protecting the ability of future generations to meet their needs through various methods. These include increasing aquifer recharge, reducing aquifer depletion, increasing streamflow, and remediating threats to drinking water.
  • Contribute to multiple water supply management goals, such as flood control, agricultural use, municipal and industrial uses, recreational benefits, wildlife habitat, conservation, and preservation of water resources.
  • Provide increased water productivity and enhancing water quality.
  • Use the most cost-effective solutions available.
  • Comply with compacts, decrees, and other state contracts and agreements.

Fully & Over Appropriated Designations 

A basin is determined to be fully appropriated if further development were to occur, the balance between water use and water supplies could not be sustained. An over-appropriated (OA) basin is one where the extent of development is not sustainable over the long-term, or that the already permitted uses are in excess of what can be supported by the water supply.  As a result of the designations, NeDNR placed the following stays on new uses of surface and groundwater: immediate stay on any new natural-flow, storage, or storage-use appropriations in the whole of the OA basins, and a stay on new water well construction permits in all of the geographic area within which surface water and groundwater are hydrologically connected.  Stays are imposed on the construction of certain new water wells unless such construction has commenced prior to the effective date of the stay or a still valid construction permit for such water well had been previously obtained from an NRD, and on the use of an existing water well to increase the number of acres historically irrigated.  NeDNR placed stays on any increase, through the use of an existing surface water right, of the number of acres historically irrigated.

All additional stays became effective September 2004 and will remain in effect until NeDNR determines that the affected basins are not over-appropriated, or the stays expire pursuant to the provisions of LB 962.  In 2006, NDNR started making annual determinations of basins not previously designated as fully appropriated or OA to see if they had become fully appropriated.  CPNRD was designated as OA from Elm Creek west and the rest of the District was designated as fully appropriated.  CPNRD directors and staff and NeDNR worked with Stakeholders to develop an Integrated Management Plan for the NRD.  CPNRD also participated in the development of a basin-wide plan for the Platte Basin.  In 2013, the board approved an agreement to allow Twin Platte and Tri-Basin NRDs to purchase water from CPNRD annually to provide flows back to the Platte River. The agreement states that if Central Platte has excess flows available, the Twin Platte NRD may purchase up to 1,500 AF of water until 2020; and Tri-Basin NRD may purchase up to 2,000 AF until March of 2034.  Any remaining flows above CPNRD’s needs could be sold to the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program.


Project SENSE

Project SENSE (Sensors for Efficient Nitrogen Use and Stewardship of the Environment) is a collaborative effort between the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the Nebraska Corn Board, five Natural Resources Districts (NRDs) in Nebraska, and producers participating in the Nebraska On-Farm Research Network. After three years in the field, Project SENSE  participants are seeing reduced nitrogen per acre and increased net return. Project SENSE focuses on improving the efficiency of nitrogen fertilizer use.  2018 Project SENSE Update

Contact Dean Krull, UNL/CPNRD project coordinator, for more information regarding Project SENSE at (402) 469-0155.

Project SENSE (Sensors for Efficient Nitrogen Use and Stewardship of the Environment) is a project focused on improving the efficiency of nitrogen fertilizer use.  It will implement 20 on-farm research sites each year, over the next 3 years.  Richard Ferguson, UNL Extension Soil Specialist, is leading the project which will focus on crop canopy sensors to direct variable-rate, in-season nitrogen application in corn.

Since 1988, the nitrate concentration in groundwater in Nebraska’s Central Platte River Valley has been steadily declining, largely due to the conversion from furrow to center-pivot irrigation.  However, over the last 25 years, fertilizer nitrogen use efficiency has remained static.  This trend points to the need for the adoption of available technologies such as crop canopy sensors for further improvement in nitrogen use efficiency.  Strategies that direct crop nitrogen status at early growth stages are promising as a way to improve nitrogen fertilizer efficiency.

For more information please visit