Water Resources of the United States
Date: Mon, 01 Apr 2013 17:08:33 EDT
Summary: There has been virtually no change in the code red category that put 96 percent of Nebraska in extreme or exceptional drought at the end of the 2012 growing season.
Summary of Event Impact:
According to the meeting of the Nebraska CARC (Climate Assessment and Response Committee), there has been virtually no change in the code red category that put 96 percent of Nebraska in extreme or exceptional drought at the end of the 2012 growing season. No other state is in such bad shape (from JournalStar.com on March 26, 2013, http://journalstar.com/business/agriculture/nebraska-s-drought-pain-is-unrelenting/article_8a1a2303-39a0-5ccc-b708-681366eedfa4.html). Also from that same article, some statistical markers from the National Drought Mitigation Center and Bob Swanson of the U.S. Geologic Survey:
* 100 percent of the state is in drought, and about three-fourths of it is in the worst category of exceptional drought.
* 50 percent of the state's winter wheat is in either poor or very poor condition.
* Parts of northeast Nebraska are as much as 14 inches behind normal precipitation for the past year.
* Evidence of tree damage in a state known as the home turf of Arbor Day is extensive. Tree damage is extreme west of York, Nebraska State Climatologist Al Dutcher said.
* Many of the wells monitored by the U.S Geologic Survey show no signs of recovering from last summer's irrigation drawdown and the end of the irrigation season. Swanson called that significant for this time of year.
The U.S. Drought Monitor shows that drought conditions in Nebraska have remained relatively unchanged over the past seven months, classifying 76 percent of Nebraska in the Exceptional drought category, while 96 percent of the state remained in at least the Extreme drought category.
The National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) says 2012 was both the driest and warmest year out of 118 years of record. The NDMC also noted that Lake McConaughy (on the North Platte River) is 64.9 percent full, down from 82.4 percent a year ago (that amounts to more than 12 feet of water depth); and Harlan County Reservoir (on the Republican River) between Alma and Republican City contains about 195,000 acre-feet of water, down from 321,000 acre-feet a year ago.
USGS WaterWatch shows all of the reporting basins below normal or in moderate hydrologic drought, including the Platte River at Louisville, which is the source of Lincoln's water supply.
Records or Milestones:
Of 60 long-term USGS streamgages (>30 years record) in Nebraska, 4 (or 7 percent) are at no flow (a 3 percent reduction from the Drought Report of November 29). However, the 7-day average streamflow for 42 of the long-term streamgages (70 percent) are classified as being "Below Normal" to "Extreme Hydrologic Drought." The USGS Groundwater Watch shows that over 1,250 groundwater wells are at or less than the 24th percentile (Below Normal or Much Below Normal). 61 percent of ranked wells in the Nebraska Continuous Groundwater Level Network are less than the 24th percentile (Below Normal or Much Below Normal), and more than half of those are less than the 10th percentile.
Additional Efforts Required due to the Drought:
No additional low-flow discharge measurements were required in the past month, and one low-end rating extension was needed (there have been 26 low-end rating extensions since June 2012).
Nebraska has several thousand annual and hundreds of semi-annual wells in the groundwater level network, but this means that groundwater data related to the drought may be nearly a year old. Nebraska WSC created the Nebraska Continuous Groundwater Level Network which expands on the Groundwater Watch Real-Time Groundwater Level Network. The new network includes continuous recorders which lack real-time capability, but reduce the effective time to last observation to a few months at most.
The USGS partnered with the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) to conduct a mass groundwater-level survey of Wayne County. Technicians with the USGS and the LENRD obtained water levels from approximately 300 wells in this northeast Nebraska county, which experienced record-setting drought impacts during the summer and fall of 2012.
Communications and Outreach:
Nebraska WSC staff have answered numerous media requests for drought information to date (none in the past month).
A WWW page is available http://ne.water.usgs.gov/drought/
No news release is planned.
Storm Surge: no
Sub-Region: Midwest; Region: Central United States