The water supply outlook for the 2017 irrigation season is currently “pretty good,” according to a report during The Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District’s board of directors on Monday.
Cory Steinke, civil engineer, informed the board that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is tentatively projecting a spill of about 150,000 acre-feet of water from North Platte River reservoirs in Wyoming this spring, based on current reservoir storage and projected snowmelt runoff.
“We will have space to store those inflows in Lake McConaughy,” Steinke said, “unless we see a significant change in weather conditions and inflows.”
Lake McConaughy is currently at elevation 3254.6 feet, down about a foot over the past few weeks as a result of releases from the Environmental Account (EA) in the reservoir for wildlife habitat purposes along the central Platte River. The EA is a block of water stored in Lake McConaughy and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The EA releases have been ongoing for the past few weeks to benefit migrating cranes and waterfowl along the central Platte River flyway. The releases are beginning to wind down and should end about mid-March.
Current inflows to Lake McConaughy have been in the 1,200 cubic feet per second (cfs) range, while outflows over the same period have been about 2,600 cfs, said Steinke.
Steinke reported that current snowpack measurements indicate that the upper Platte River Basin is at 124% of normal, the lower basin is 112% and the South Platte Basin is 130% of normal.
Those numbers can change dramatically, Steinke reminded the board, depending upon snowfall in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and Wyoming between now and the end of May.