Ground Water Modeling Analyses to Inform Aquifer Management Decisions in the Nebraska Panhandle
In the Nebraska Panhandle, two modeling efforts have been developed to provide decision support information, tools, and analyses of water resources management decisions. The Western Water Use Management Modeling covers the Southern Nebraska Panhandle and was created for two Natural Resources District's (NRD) and the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources (NeDNR). The Upper Niobrara-White Ground Water Model covers the Northern Nebraska Panhandle and was created for the Upper Niobrara White NRD and the NeDNR. The NRDs are governmental entities with locally elected Board of Directors that are responsible for regulating and managing ground water pumping over several counties.
These modeling efforts encompass nearly the entire Nebraska Panhandle between the Wyoming, Colorado, and South Dakota borders. The primary surface water bodies within the models are the North Platte River, South Platte River, Niobrara River, and Lodgepole Creek. The principal ground water system in the area is the High Plains Aquifer that locally consists of alluvial, aeolian (Nebraska Sandhills), Ogallala, and Arikaree aquifers. Each modeling effort utilizes three partially integrated models that consist of a surface water operations model of the North Platte and Niobrara Rivers; a regionalized soil water balance model to determine consumptive use; and a ground water model to simulate the ground water/surface water system and the effects of well pumping.
Recent analyses of the Ogallala and Arikaree aquifers have been conducted using the ground water models to simulate different ground water pumping allocations and climate scenarios which provide estimates of future aquifer drawdown, saturated thickness, and percent saturated thickness used. Ultimately, the results of these analyses are used to help educate and inform the public, open up a dialog on aquifer management, and provide the NRD Boards with information to aid their aquifer management decisions to determine future ground water pumping allocations.