NRDs stepping up to the challenge
Curtis, Nebraska -- Nebraska's Natural Resources Districts have worked hard in recent years to protect Nebraska's most valuable natural resource in the basin: our water. By using every tool available, NRDs throughout the state have introduced cutting-edge and common sense water management programs and projects that derive the most efficient use of water while maintaining the viability of our vital agricultural economic sector.
In the Middle Republican NRD we have taken necessary steps to be responsible managers of our water. Last year, in response to the drought and a water short year, the District Board of Directors limited water allocations to 18% of the base allocation or 10.8 inches. Irrigators responded with an average District wide use of only 10.25" for 2013.
Nebraska irrigators deserve praise for complying with regulatory actions and their willingness to work with NRDs and the State of Nebraska to develop workable, common sense, Nebraska-based water management plans that protect the economy while helping preserve natural resources for future generations.
Across the state, NRDs are taking bold steps to protect water in their respective districts. Since 2006, several laws have changed giving local districts the ability to develop water conservation and river augmentation projects.
The Nebraska Cooperative Republican Platte Enhancement Project (NCORPE) in Lincoln County provides an opportunity to provide additional water in compact call and water-short years and avoid additional regulation in the Republican and Platte River Basins. Almost 16,000 acres were retired from irrigation by the Lower Republican, Middle Republican, Upper Republican and Twin Platte NRDs with the purchase of the farm for the NCORPE project. It will be operational in 2014 to help prevent an irrigation shutdown on 100,000 or more irrigated acres in the Basin. The project is similar to the Rock Creek Augmentation Project in the Upper Republican NRD but significantly larger.
Both projects will provide assurances that Nebraska maintains compliance with the Republican River Compact. In the future, water will also be piped into the Platte River to help return the Twin Platte NRD to 1997 water use levels as required under the Platte River recovery program.
The regulations that have been imposed in all or parts of the Republican Basin since 1979 are also more stringent than those regulations enacted in other states. By comparison, allocations in Nebraska's Republican Basin are approximately 45 percent less than what is allowed in Kansas.
The Papio-Missouri River NRD area includes all of Dakota, Washington, Douglas and Sarpy Counties, plus the eastern portions of Burt and Thurston Counties. The Papio-Missouri River NRD area contains over 50 percent of the State's population, we continue to place emphasis on the wise conservation of over one-half million acres devoted to agricultural production. The PMRNRD is taking bold steps to assure that productive soil and plentiful water continues to empower our state's agricultural economy.
Although we expect more challenges in the future as water becomes more valuable, the local NRDs will continue working hard to use every means available to protect our state's precious water resource for future generations while also providing water for all beneficial uses.
-- Lawson is information and education coordinator for the Middle Republican Natural Resources District