By Tim Linscott
The concept of unity to give the region long-lasting water protection was discussed at the Nebraska Water Balance Alliance (NEWBA) meeting on May 22 in Ogallala.
Ted Tietjen, Chairman, Republican River Restoration Partners, along with Lorre McKeone, communications coordinator for NEWBA, presented information on the NEWBA water for generations demonstration projects conducted in 2012, 2013 and currently being conducted.
There is a simple goal for the project: find ways to sustain water.
“We wanted real life demonstrations,” McKeone said. “We are trying to find the best information and methods out there and use peer-to-peer sharing to get results.”
Eleven pivots were used in the study using a variety of technology to gather information including real-time water consumption use and recording data to be shared with multiple sources.
An Ag-sense crop link and field commander computer application data was compared to data from flow meters, local power companies and pressure gauges to cross check for accuracy.
A soil texture triangle developed by Washington State University has been adopted to help set standards and establish water holding capacity. Tietjen is hoping probe companies can use this triangle to form a baseline to help growers.
Using all of this information is part of a proposal by Tietjen to use a watershed approach to sustaining water long-term in the region. The Republican River Basin is divided into a HUC 1025, which is roughly one million acres and then broken down into township size units.
There are 17 HUC 8 in the state with portions of Kansas and Colorado cutting through and Tietjen is hoping to form a HUC 8 to solve water issues.
“We need to include everyone from recreation users, irrigators, all water users,” Tietjen said. “We need Kansas and Colorado to buy into accepting this. It will take all of us to make our water supply sustainable.”
The studies done the last three years look at individual users and McKeone notes that if NEWBA wants to make an impact on all water users, a watershed approach must be used.
Now is the time to attempt this feat, Tietjen feels.
“We did not have the technology five years ago to do this. We have that technology now, it can be done,” Tietjen said.
A grant is being sought to help hire a graduate assistant to help set up, organize and accomplish the establishment of the HUC 8.
A HUC 12, an enclosed watershed where no water goes in or comes out, south of Grant, is a perfect place to begin the watershed concept, according to Tietjen, because there are few variables.
Tietjen feels the Henry J. Stumpf International Wheat Research Center being built just outside of Grant would be a ‘natural fit’ for a homebase for the project for staff and office space to organize such a project.
A watershed project is a long-term commitment and takes the help of many parties.
“This concept brings everyone in, not just the irrigators,” Tietjen said. “Farming practices have changed so much over the years it has reduced stream flow. The changes have been so big over the years that you could shut off irrigation and would still not meet compact stream flow requirements.”
Tietjen wants to see this concept producer driven rather than regulatory agency driven, but understands that regulatory agencies must be involved.
Funds have been raised to hire an intern for 2015 for NEWBA to help with the project.
Mike Clements, Lower Republican Natural Resources District, was receptive to the idea, but needed more information before stating a definite opinion.
Within the next 60 days members of NEWBA will be meeting with officials from the University of Nebraska to coordinate the project.
The recent budget cut of $4.5 million from the university’s budget will present some challenges for the project.
“I am sure that impacted most operating departments. Once they get that sorted out then we all can determine where we are headed,” Tietjen said.