Central Recognizes Importance of Recharge to Region

This past February, The Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District diverted over 3,000 acre-feet of additional water for intentional recharge.  This follows immediately on the heels of

Recharge photo

Irrigation Service Specialist Keith Jauken opens the gates to deliver water into Funk Lagoon

2023 deliveries which eclipsed 17,000 acre-feet.  Intentional recharge is made possible by Central through Water Service Agreements with the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources (NeDNR) and the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program (PRRIP).

These commitments from PRRIP and NeDNR recognize the value and important benefits of recharge to Nebraska. Combined, the agreements commit nearly $30 million for recharge deliveries to sustain the benefits they are realizing, while providing revenue to help offset operation, maintenance, and delivery costs to the District.

The PRRIP agreement provided $9.15 million for groundwater aquifer recharge services associated with the Elwood Reservoir and parts of the Phelps Canal with a term extending out for at least 20 years.   In addition, NeDNR provided $19.1 million for excess flow diversions into the E65 Canal, Phelps Canal, Elwood Reservoir, and several Waterfowl Production Areas over the next 15 years. In partnership with the Tri-Basin and Central Platte Natural Resource Districts, out of the $19.1 million, Tri-Basin provided $1.19 million while the Central Platte NRD contributed $1.2 million.

Recharge activities are identified in two separate and very distinct ways, one is known as intentional, and the other is known as incidental. The long-term agreements between Central, PRRIP and NeDNR are part of intentional recharge efforts.  In contrast, recharge that occurs normally from diverting water into Central’s canal system for irrigation deliveries is referred to as incidental recharge.  Over the last 80 years incidental recharge has resulted in an artificially high water table known as “The Mound.”

Not to be confused with groundwater, the mound is surface water stored underground as part of Central’s approved “U-2 and U-12 appropriation for Incidental Underground Water Storage rights.”  The mound’s creation has been funded through revenue generated by Central’s operations over the past 80 years. Those revenue sources are largely provided through energy sales and water service deliveries, with energy sales accounting for nearly 70% of total gross revenue from 2011 to 2021.  More recently, support from residential leases around area lakes and these recharge agreements have also helped contribute to operations and maintenance of the District’s aging infrastructure and helped keep costs for all customers as low as possible.  The artificially high water table created by Central also supports the Imported Water Supply Credit to the Republican Basin while providing a positive financial benefit to groundwater pumpers in the Tri-County irrigated area.

Since beginning operation in 1942, it is estimated Central’s project has already contributed 10.5 million acre-feet to create the mound.  Central has further continued supporting groundwater management by diverting excess flows for intentional recharge through contracts for nearly 15 years.

Central recognizes the importance of recharge to our region, along with others that receive the benefits created by our surface water irrigated infrastructure and long-standing customers. Central’s investment and customer commitment is ongoing with construction efforts that secure the surface water irrigated infrastructure. These investments make it possible to sustain the benefits and the heritage of surface water deliveries that helped create prosperity in agriculture across the Tri-County area along with a large part of Central and South Central Nebraska.