HOLDREGE, Neb. — Ten times more water is being released from Lake McConaughy to keep up with downstream irrigation demand than is flowing into the lake.
At this week's Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District Board meeting, Civil Engineer Cory Steinke said North Platte River inflows were running at 340 cubic feet per second — the historical average is 1,580 cfs — and releases were at 3,700 cfs.
“We're releasing a lot of water for irrigation. It's been a difficult year,” Steinke said, because of the hot, dry, windy weather and the demand to irrigate corn and soybeans.
The district's primary irrigation service area is in Gosper, Phelps and Kearney Counties.
The lake's elevation Monday was 3,248.4 feet and dropping 1.5 to 2 feet per week. Steinke said it's typical for the lake to fall 15 feet in an irrigation season, but he is now estimating a 20-foot drop this year.
Steinke noted how quickly his water management strategies have had to change, from years of drought early in the past decade, to high-water years in the Platte Basin in 2010 and 2011, and back to dry conditions.
“This comes only a year after we had the most water coming in ever,” he said.