WASHINGTON, D.C.--Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced that Interior's Bureau of Reclamation is providing $2.4 million in new funding for comprehensive water studies in five western river basins, including the Republican River Basin in Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska.
Natural Resources Districts along the Republican River are already working with the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources on a conjunctive management study, noted Dan Smith, director of the Middle Republican NRD.
"This study will develop a surface water model to supplement the other processes used in (Republican River) Compact accounting and give us the opportunity to look at management of the waters of the basin," he said.
"The funding from the Bureau of Reclamation will allow us to expand that ongoing study and draw in other partners and interests to get a more complete evaluation of the supplies and uses of water in the basin."
The request for these funds was a collaborative effort between the state and local partners and was started almost a year ago, he said.
"Reclamation wanted involvement of Kansas in the study and that was eventually worked out," Smith said.
The new federal funding comes through the Department of the Interior's WaterSMART Basin Study Program. WaterSMART provides leadership and tools to states and local communities to address current and potential imbalances between water supply and demand and to work toward sustainable solutions.
"WaterSMART is a perfect example of the value of strong partnerships bringing Interior together with local water and conservation managers to create sustainable water supplies in the West," Secretary Salazar said. "Rivers are the lifeblood of our communities. As we work together to study these complex river basins, we can explore options to help guide water management and administration for the future and ensure the health of our vital ecosystems for coming generations."
In addition to the federal WATERSMART funds, $3.9 million will be provided by non-federal partners for a total of $6.3 million for five studies--besides the Republican River Basin, the others are in New Mexico, California and Oklahoma.
The Republican River Basin Study will receive $413,000 in federal funding from Interior and $435,000 in non-federal funding from state agencies in Nebraska, Colorado and Kansas.
The Republican River flows from its headwaters in Colorado into northwest Kansas, through southern Nebraska and back into north-central Kansas. It drains approximately 23,300 square miles of these three states and supplies water for municipalities, industries, surface and ground water irrigation, recreation and wildlife.
The Republican River Basin is subject to an interstate compact ratified in 1943. The three states recently proposed this collaborative basin study, which will cover the entire basin down to the Clay Center stream-gauging station in northeast Kansas. The study will identify mitigation and adaptation strategies that address the impacts of climate change on water resources in the basin.
"The collaboration that takes place during the development of a basin study is a fundamental goal of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative," Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Michael L. Connor added. "Through America's Great Outdoors, we are developing lasting conservation solutions that are supported by the American people."
Basin studies are comprehensive water studies that define options for meeting future water demands in river basins in the western United States where imbalances in water supply and demand exist or are projected to exist. Each study consists of four key segments:
State-of-the-art projections of future supply and demand in the river basin;
An analysis of how the basin's existing water and power operations and infrastructure will perform in the face of changing water realities;
Development of options to improve operations and infrastructure to supply adequate water in the future; and
Analysis of the options identified to arrive at findings and recommendations about how to optimize operations and infrastructure in a basin to supply adequate water in the future.
The non-federal partners in a basin study must contribute at least 50 percent of the total study cost in non-federal funding or in-kind services. Basin studies are not financial assistance and Reclamation's share of the study costs may be used only to support work done by Reclamation or its contractors.
The WaterSMART Program addresses increasing water supply challenges, including chronic water shortages due to population growth, climate variability and change and growing competition for finite water supplies. Through the basin studies program, Reclamation will work cooperatively with state and local partners in the 17 western states to evaluate future water supply and demand imbalances, assess the risks and impacts of climate change on water resources and develop potential mitigation and adaptation strategies to meet future demands.