Due to the extreme drought, irrigation will be cut back next summer on central Nebraska farms to help save water in Lake McConaughy. The lake is about half full and less water is expected to run into the lake from upstream this fall and next summer, Civil Engineer Cory Steinke said Monday.
The board of the Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District voted Monday to allocate 10 inches of water to farms instead of the normal 18 inches during the three-month-long irrigation season.
Steinke said Lake McConaughy ended the irrigation season at 53 percent of capacity, at elevation 3,232.3 feet above sea level.
Nearly 750,000 acre-feet entered the lake in the last “water season,” compared with a historical average of 929,000 acre-feet. Steinke projects about 546,000 acre-feet next year.
The board authorized only minimum releases during the off-season and plans to use water already in the supply canals to finish the 2013 irrigation season, as well as ending all irrigation deliveries on Sept. 2.
Also, no additional water will be delivered to any water users, including smaller canals that have supplemental storage contracts with Central.
Coming one year after record inflows to Lake McConaughy, the hot, dry summer brought heavy demand from irrigators, Irrigation Division Manager Dave Ford said.
Ford said the 10.13 inches of rain that fell in April-September was the least amount since 1957, when records began to be kept.
“The drawdown at Lake McConaughy this summer could have been worse, but I think it demonstrates how Central’s customers have improved their efficiency and done a good job conserving water,” Steinke said. “We’ve also seen a continuing increase in the number of pivots on the system, which also reduces the need for diversions (irrigation water).”
Steinke said irrigation has been reduced by about 50,000 acre-feet a season, while still covering approximately the same number of acres, since before 2002-09, when five years of drought forced farms to develop ways to grow crops with less irrigation water.
Central will send letters containing details for next year’s irrigation schedule to irrigation customers.
In a related matter, the board approved revisions to its delivery location transfer policy that was in effect during 2005-09. The policy allows for transfers of water deliveries to and from irrigated tracts during periods of allocations to provide additional flexibility for customers to meet their crops’ irrigation needs. Customers can review the policy on Central’s web site.
Also, the Central board of directors:
Approved an agreement with EA Engineering, Science and Technology, Inc., of Lincoln to perform a study of the “groundwater mound” beneath and adjacent to Central’s service area. The “mound” is where underground water is rising.
The study will provide a better understanding of the current status of the mound, changes in storage and extraction over the years, the effects of changing irrigation practices and management methods over the years and the mound’s sustainability under future scenarios.
Data will be gathered during phase one of the study, with detailed analysis of the data to occur during phase two.
• Approved budget revisions for 2012 to include installation of nearly 1,905 feet of buried pipeline in Kearney County (which is budget neutral due to transfers of unspent funds) and the addition of $14,000 to implement the groundwater mound study.
• Accepted a $211,704 bid from Laron, Inc., of Kingman, Ariz., to transport and rehabilitate the bypass valve at the Kingsley Hydroplant. The valve, which was designed to release water through the plant when the generator is offline, has been used extensively for many years to aerate water passing from Lake McConaughy to Lake Ogallala to meet dissolved oxygen standards for fish habitat. It was previously rehabilitated in 1996.
• Approved an agreement with the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program to test the use of water in Lake McConaughy’s environmental account (EA) for groundwater recharge to add to flows in the Platte River. According to terms of the one-year agreement, Central will divert up to 5,000 acre-feet of EA water into the Phelps Canal during the non-irrigation season for recharge purposes.
• Approved interconnect agreements with Southwest Power Pool and the Nebraska Public Power District for the Jeffrey, Johnson No. 1 and Johnson No. 2 hydroplants, subject to legal review. The agreements cover the interconnection between the generating facilities and the electric transmission system.
• Approved a motion to hold the Nov. 5 board meeting at the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s Visitor Center at Lake McConaughy. The meeting will begin at 10 a.m. Mountain Time.