Management Options Identified For South Loup Water Issues

Options ranging from water detention structures to improve water quantity to water quality options for reducing contaminants were presented at a meeting on South Loup Watershed issues in Pleasanton February 4th.   The South Loup River Watershed, which stretches from east of Ravenna northwest to the Stapleton area, has seen reductions in both surface water flows and groundwater levels as well as water quality problems like e Coli and other contaminants.Tylr Naprstek

The meeting, hosted by the Lower Loup NRD, in partnership with the Upper Loup, Central Platte and Twin Platte NRDs, was held to update the stakeholders in the basin on the progress of the study, being conducted by JEO Consulting Group.  Adam Rupe of JEO outlined the issues in the South Loup River, where flows have showed a downward trend, from approximately 250 cubic feet per second (CFS) to just above 200 CFS, since measurements began in 1944.  Similar measurements show flows in the Middle Loup have remained nearly steady, while the North Loup flows have an upward trend.

The South Loup River Watershed covers over 1 million acres and is devoted to agricultural uses, farming, grazing and feeding operations.  It includes 6 communities, 2 community lakes and multiple recreational uses.  There are over 230 stream miles in the basin.

Water quality issues, including nitrate levels, were mapped out as were the locations of confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs).  The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality has also labeled several locations on the South Loup River as impaired. 

Rupe

To further understand the basin’s water issues, the engineering firm has studied surface water/groundwater interaction, identified some conjunctive management opportunities, and updated the data on e Coli contamination.  They are finalizing modeling work on pollutant levels, estimating the requirement levels for best management practices and setting some goals and objectives.

The conjunctive management of surface water and groundwater means that both resources would be used to improve overall water availability and reliability.  This would include capture and recharge efforts utilizing runoff from precipitation events, which could be focused more in the upper reaches of the river.

A public open house will be held in March to provide a final version of the study results.  Landowners and residents of the South Loup Basin will be invited to attend to learn more about the results and the opportunities to implement best management practices on their properties.