U.S. Water News Online
GIBBON, Neb. -- For those who have seen the Platte River
lately and thought it looked a bit low, they were right.
Perhaps nothing symbolizes Nebraska's multiyear drought more than
the trickle of water cutting across Nebraska at a time when the river
should be at its highest.
``This is the lowest that we've experienced the Platte in the
spring,'' Paul Tebbel, director of Nebraska Audubon's Rowe Sanctuary
near Gibbon, told the Lincoln Journal Star. ``We're looking at
incredibly low water levels right now.''
Flows at gauges between Overton and Grand Island last week ranged
between 246 and 314 cubic feet per second. During an average spring,
river flows peak at several thousand cubic feet per second at those
Upstream from the central Platte River, conditions aren't much
Recently, the North Platte River at Lewellen flowed at about 700
cubic feet per second, about 45 percent of normal.
Nebraska climatologists predict the river's flow will soon drop
Climatologists Al Dutcher and Mark Svoboda said at a recent
meeting that depleted snow pack in the Rocky Mountains and a
warmer-than-usual March point to increasingly difficult drought
conditions in western and central Nebraska.
Dutcher also noted that the Platte River is likely to run dry east
of Kearney this summer for third straight year.
He's not the only one making such predictions.
``I expect the river to go dry in June and stay dry until the
fall,'' Tebbel said.
A third straight year of the Platte River running dry east of
Kearney could mean water-quality problems for Grand Island, said Ron
Bishop, manager of the Central Platte Natural Resources.
A constant flow in the Platte River helps to improve water
quality, Bishop said. Over the years, his district has seen a lesser
degree of nitrate contamination in groundwater next to the river, he
``We attribute that primarily to the recharge (of groundwater)
from the Platte River,'' Bishop told the Grand Island Independent.
``Without that recharge, it ... creates some problems for
communities, such as Kearney and Grand Island, who have their well
fields on islands in the river. It starts moving those nitrates
closer to the well fields over time.''
Bishop said the Platte River east of Kearney went dry last July
and didn't start getting water until November.
``It took that long after the irrigation season for water to start
showing up in enough quantity to get clear back down to Grand
Island,'' he said.
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