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In the war over water for irrigation, the solution could be underground
Farming hasn't seen a change like this in decades.
But, switching from surface to ground water use could benefit farmers during tough drought conditions.
The Twin Platte and Central Platte Natural Resources Districts proposed the change.
"With surface water sometimes there's at any one given time there's not enough water for everybody to use what they need," said Ron Bishop, general manager for the Central Platte Natural Resource District.
The latest proposal is to switch to irrigation ground water, and recharge the aquifers with the surface water supply.
"It's so important to us here in the Platte Valley along the Platte River and down below the project," Bishop said.
Freeing up the surface water would in turn keep the river's water flow at a steady rate.
"We found that uh there's a potential there for up to 100 thousand acre feet of water a year in the river at the critical times," he added.
Nearly 75 percent of farmers currently have access to groundwater but don't tap into it unless necessary, like in times of drought.
"It would be like having a reservoir and then we'd go up and down in times of drought and fill it back up in time of plenty," Bishop said, adding that in seasons of drought or dry weather, like we're being threatened with right now, groundwater can make a big difference.
"Surface water is not uh, not always there in quantities that we need it to provide irrigation," said Bishop. "In fact Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District had uh a few years there where they were only able to provide half supplies."
Bishop says less water loss would occur from evaporation when using a surface water source.
And, switching to a groundwater irrigation system in the Cornhusker state could have an effect on our neighboring states that share our water as well.
"We can increase the flows in the Platte River to meet some of the commitments that Nebraska's made to Colorado and Wyoming and the federal government for threatened and endangered species," said Bishop.
Bishop adds there's potential that Lake McConaughy could be operated at a more uniform level rather than feast or famine with the ground water switch.
The Central Platte Natural Resources District will meet with the Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District Board of Directors about the proposal June 22.
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