Water Resources of the United States

PROJECT ALERT NOTICE (NE) Nebraska Drought Update

Date: Thr, 16 Aug 2012 16:57:31 EDT

Summary: As Nebraska drought deepens, USGS crews have increased low-flow monitoring activities.

Hydrologic Conditions: Drought conditions deepened significantly throughout Nebraska this week. The U.S. Drought Monitor currently shows 100 percent of the state in Severe Drought, with 91.4 percent of the state in Extreme drought status and 22.5 percent in the Exceptional status category (an increase of 19 percent from the past week).
Sixteen USGS streamgages in Nebraska are at zero flow (three more than last week). Of 60 long-term USGS streamgages (>30 years record) in Nebraska, 13 (or 22 percent) are at no flow (up from 10 gages last week). 23 percent of the long-term gages are equal to or exceed the 7-day low-flow average record for Nebraska.
Scattered showers of less than a tenth of an inch of rain fell across the state over the past week, with small areas receiving as much as half an inch. Generally, these light rainfalls were absorbed before they could enter the river systems. Water restrictions continue to be widespread throughout the state. Mandatory restrictions are in place in the city of Lincoln and the village of Weeping Water.

Streamgages - Five USGS NEWSC field crews continued to make additional low-flow measurements and PZF verifications at more than 20 streamgages and made 8 extra streamflow measurements over the past week. We are currently making 2 measurements per week at the Elkhorn River at Waterloo, Platte River at Ashland, Platte River at Venice, and Platte River at Louisville with increased frequency of visits to the Platte River at Duncan, Northbend, and Overton and the Loup River at Genoa, all key forecast points for Omaha and Lincoln Municipal Water Systems. Lincoln and Omaha get most of their drinking water from well fields in and adjacent to the Lower Platte River and depend upon adequate streamflow in the river for their supply.
NEWSC has completed 4 additional low-end rating extensions for a total of 26 across the state so far. Low-water levels have caused a number of gage problems around the state. Within the last week, technicians have repaired at least at least six exposed intakes, orifice lines, and have installed submersible pressure gages where needed. One radar sensor also had to be moved to a hydrated portion of the channel.

Groundwater levels - GroundwaterWatch shows half of the Nebraska real-time groundwater observation wells in the Below Normal, Much Below Normal, or Low (new low) categories. The GroundwaterWatch water-level network readings were mostly completed in the spring before the onset of the drought. The City of Lincoln municipal well field on the Platte River is approaching operational limits and is currently more stressed than during the 2002 drought. USGS crews continue to take weekly groundwater level readings (typically monthly) at about 20 wells. At least one Natural Resources District is reporting that some domestic wells and irrigation wells are going dry and are concerned about municipal supplies. One Native American Tribe has also reported dry domestic wells.

Water quality - The Center continues normal operation of a network of stream temperature stations, and several multi-parameter water-quality stations. The Platte River near Ashland, Venice, and Louisville and the Elkhorn River at Waterloo have reached 95 degrees F in the past month. Special trips have been made to two sites to re-deploy the instrumentation due to continuous channel recession.

Special projects - None.

Communications and outreach - The NEWSC drought page has been updated and expanded at http://ne.water.usgs.gov/drought/. A drought information message has been created and provided to all field staff to provide USGS information to the public and for media requests. USGS staff have answered numerous media requests for drought information to date. Several media reporters have interviewed Director Robert Swanson and Associate Director Jason Lambrecht in the past month (references below). This past week, Robert Swanson was interviewed for a column in the Lincoln Journal Star that ran on Aug. 15, 2012 http://journalstar.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/nancy-hicks-pretty-picture-of-an-ugly-situation/article_fc4e64bb-6355-5e6d-9253-70786d7d4b0e.html

A WWW page is available. The URL is: http://ne.water.usgs.gov/drought/

No news release is planned, but we have been using our landing page of http://ne.water.usgs.gov to provide updates and link to the drought page. We are also using Twitter to post drought photos and facts as available.

OK to post on Web: yes

Sub-Region: Midwest; Region: Central United States

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