U.S. Water News Online
TORRINGTON, Wyo. -- The water levels in the North Platte
reservoir system have been on the decline for years, and a water
official says he doesn't expect it to get any better.
John Lawson, an area manager with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
based in Mills, Wyo., said the reservoir system -- which feeds
Panhandle irrigation districts and Lake McConaughy -- held 805,800
acre feet on Sept. 30, a far cry from its 2.8 million acre foot
His office's water prediction for the 2007 water year, which began
Oct. 1, puts the most probable water level at 792,500 acre feet. The
minimum water level is forecast to be 417,000 acre feet.
The prediction is based on previous water data and current
"It's not a rosy picture," Lawson said during the bureau's annual
meeting on water operations. "We haven't reached the most probable
plan in seven years."
In fact, he said, the North Platte system has dropped about
100,000 acre feet a year in that time.
The reservoirs that are part of that system -- Seminoe, Pathfinder
and Glendo -- are operating well below their capacities, between 20
and 30 percent, Lawson said.
Reduced water flow from these into the North Platte River has been
one of the factors forcing water levels down in Lake McConaughy.
The man-made lake gets most of its water from the North Platte. It
can hold about 2 million acre feet of water, but this summer hit a
record-low 19 percent capacity.
As a result, the Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation
District has reduced water allotments for irrigators that use Lake
Before seven years of drought started, irrigators got around 18
inches an acre. This season they received 8.4 inches an acre, but
that will drop to 6.7 inches next year.
Current drought conditions in Nebraska vary from abnormally dry in
the east to extreme drought in the northwest, according to the U.S.
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