February 10, 2016

Irrigator says water supply “adequate” for the season ahead

State officials and farmers are growing more concerned about dry conditions and a looming drought in Nebraska.

Dave Ford, vice president of the State Irrigators Association, says he’s wary, but does think they have enough irrigation water to get through the season.

Ford says flows into Lake McConaughey have been good this year but supplies will need to be watched more carefully.

“They were over 80% of capacity as we began this season and Lake McConaughey was in about that same vicinity, in the 82-to-84% of capacity,” Ford says. “The supply is going to be adequate for this year but as we move forward and we see these low snowpack years, that has impact for future years.”

Ford works for the Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District in Holdredge. He says producers have done a great job of managing their irrigation systems.

Because of the change to more no-till and center pivot irrigation, they’ve been able to maximize water use. He says they’ve also changed the way water is delivered and can bring it every week if necessary.

“What that allows them to do, for instance last Friday, we got an inch of rain in parts of our district. Some of those producers won’t irrigate this week, knowing they can get water a week from today and that saves water,” Ford says. “What we’ve seen the last two seasons is, our average delivery is 6 to 8 inches, about what they were before.”

Ford says Lake McConaughey is down 15 feet from capacity and it could end up dropping another ten feet, depending on how dry the summer becomes.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton

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