Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2014NE261B

Documenting Stream/Groundwater Interaction in the South Platte River

Institute: Nebraska
Year Established: 2014 Start Date: 2014-03-01 End Date: 2015-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $20,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $51,493

Principal Investigators: Douglas Hallum, Les Howard, Steve Sibray

Abstract: Nebraska is leading western states in developing a robust policy of integrated groundwater and surface water management. Natural Resources Districts are actively working in collaboration with state agencies and institutional stakeholders to develop not only integrated management plans, but water accounting tools which can function as regional decision support systems. While these tools are an excellent example of proactive management properly influenced by local stakeholders, the design of these tools is necessarily coarse, and built on principles that work best in gaining stream systems. Particularly problematic is uncertainty inherent in model calculations which relate to spatially and temporally variable gaining and losing reaches and surface water diversions (canals) and returns (spills) along those reaches. This study will examine a reach along the South Platte River and Western Canal at spatial and temporal resolution not previously realized and document the spatio-temporal variability of gains and losses along the river which coincide with canal operations, groundwater pumping and natural variations in flow. This monitoring will be used to build a detailed spatial water budget of the reach and compared against available regional modeling tools to determine times and locations where the regional tools are not replicating reality. This will serve as a foundation for improving local management decision-making in this reach. The information will also be used to develop local conceptualizations and management tools that can begin to integrate the regional water management and local land and water use management protocols for mutual benefit. Knowledge gained along the South Platte River will also have value in conceptualizing other ephemeral, losing, or discontinuous reaches such as the Platte or Republican Rivers, and Lodgepole Creek. Integrating surface and groundwater data collection through this project will also be useful to begin developing water monitoring infrastructure designed for conjunctive management applications, a big improvement on the separate groundwater and surface water monitoring conducted presently.