Innovative Solutions for Water Management in Western Nebraska

Presented on Tuesday, December 3, 2019
John Berge, North Platte Natural Resources District

The North Platte Natural Resources District (NPNRD) is a conservation district in western Nebraska encompassing 3.5 million acres over 4 and 1/3 counties. The District includes a severely overappropriated portion of the North Platte River and the Pumpkin Creek Basin. This designation requires that we incrementally get back to a post-1997 level of groundwater development and return an annual amount of 8,000-acre feet of water annually to the North Platte River in perpetuity.

NPNRD has taken great pride in its efforts to meet obligations by reducing consumptive use water within the District while maintaining the social and economic welfare of the District. In addition to placing a moratorium on new well drilling, allocations of water use, certification of all groundwater uses, and metering groundwater uses, NPNRD has also permanently retired groundwater irrigated acres throughout the District, including nearly 3900 in the Pumpkin Creek Basin and nearly 2000 in the North Platte River Valley. The NRD has also leased nearly 800 surface and co-mingled acres, including a surface water intentional recharge project on Enterprise Irrigation District.

NPNRD has also instituted several programs to promote the reduction of consumptive use of water within the District. The Encouraging Producer Innovation through Conservation (EPIC) program provides a bonus incentive payment to landowners in the District to renew expiring federal conservation program contracts and provides grants to landowners that propose innovative agricultural practices to realize water savings or enhanced water quality. These options include allocation buy-down, soil health and wildlife conservation. NPNRD also administers a robust cost-share program with a heavy emphasis on water management technologies, telemetry, variable speed/rate irrigation and soil moisture probes. We are also on the leading edge of research related to climate mitigation.

This presentation will focus on our efforts to integrate technology into our regulatory framework and incentive programs.

John Berge
North Platte Natural Resources District
John Berge is the General Manager of the North Platte Natural Resources District (NPNRD) in Scottsbluff, Nebraska whose purpose and authorities range from groundwater regulation and management to soil and water resource conservation to the management of a rural water system in an area of nearly 3.5 million acres in the Nebraska panhandle. Mr. Berge manages a staff of 22 and a budget of $5.5 million. Berge is an innovator in water management and sought-after presenter that has spoken around the country and internationally about the work of the North Platte NRD.

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