LRNRD bracing for water shortage in 2013
We have recently had a number of calls from producers inquiring about water allocations and supplies for next year. Our rules and regulations have the next allocation period beginning on Jan. 1, 2013 and ending on Dec. 31, 2017. The allocation will be 45 acre inches for that 5 year period. The base allocation will be 9 acre inches per year. At the end of the allocation period if you have not used all of the allocation you may carry forward up to 9 acre inches into the next allocation period.
As drought conditions continue, we are very concerned about the available supply of water at Harlan County Reservoir after this irrigation season. Harlan County Reservoir is the trigger for water short year administration in the settlement agreement with Kansas. If the available water supply for irrigation at Harlan County Reservoir is less than 119,000 acre feet then we are looking at water short year administration. Water short year administration uses a 2 year average of our water usage compared to available supply as opposed to a 5 year average. The two years that will be averaged are 2012 and the drought forecasted usage for 2013. By Dec. 31, Harlan County Reservoir needs to be at or above pool elevation 1940.34 to factor in average historical spring inflows which would bring the lake above the water short year trigger. The full irrigation pool at Harlan is 1945.7. As of today Harlan is at 1936.6.
Beginning on Oct. 15, of each year and ending on June 30, the Bureau of Reclamation will provide monthly updates on the irrigation supply at Harlan. By Nov. 15, if Harlan is projected to be water short for 2013, then the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources will look at our two year average of water use versus available supply. If that average shows a deficit for the LRNRD then the Department of Natural Resources will declare 2013 a Compact Call Year. The final declaration for a compact call year will be made prior to Jan. 1. The LRNRD must submit to the Department of Natural Resources by January 31st a management plan describing how any projected short falls will be mitigated. Management actions may include surface water leasing, ground water leasing, augmentation, pumping reductions across the District, or curtailment of pumping within the Rapid Response Region.
I think people need to know as early as possible that there may be additional controls implemented for 2013. The problem that we have is that we will not know until mid-October what our estimated usage will be for this year. Until we have the 2012 usage coupled with the 2013 forecasted usage we will not know how much, if any, water needs to be made up.
The Board is presently working on a policy that will further define Compact Call Year Management Actions. The policy will address surface water leasing, ground water leasing, augmentation, pumping restrictions, and curtailment of pumping in the Rapid Response Region. The policy should be in place by October. In the meantime I think people should know that 2013 has a high probability of being a water short year and a Compact Call Year for the LRNRD.