(LINCOLN, NEBRASKA – May 24, 2023) Yesterday, a variety of stakeholders that make-up the Nebraska Drought Taskforce met and discussed impacts and potential solutions that will be included in a Drought Contingency Plan for the Upper Platte River Basin. The meeting was held at the Keith County Fairgrounds, in Ogallala.
This year, four private conservation organizations have joined the taskforce – Audubon Great Plains, The Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited, and the Crane Trust – in addition to Nebraska Game and Parks.
“It is important for us to think about both short- and long-term consequences of drought and the actions we take to mitigate harm and risk. Water in the Platte River Basin is over-allocated, leaving local communities with fewer options in times of drought,” said Melissa Moser, Platte River Initiative Manager for Audubon Great Plains. “Planning with a diverse set of water users is important because we need innovative ways to deal with intense drought conditions, ideally before they occur. This effort will help ensure that agricultural water uses can continue to support crops and livestock, help communities keep their drinking water clean, and keep the landscape healthy for wildlife.”
The Platte Basin Coalition and the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources (NeDNR) are working to develop an Upper Platte River Drought Contingency Plan, set to be completed by early 2024. The goal of the plan is to understand drought vulnerabilities and improve critical water supply needs through robust monitoring, forecasting tools, mitigation strategies, and responsive actions. Other stakeholders (taskforce members) include individual water users and local entities such as natural resource districts, irrigation districts, and hydropower stakeholders.
Media Contact: Melissa Amarawardana, Melissa.Amarawardana@audubon.org, 402.999.3404
About The Platte River Initiative
Platte River faces increasing demands upon its limited and variable water supply. As the North and South Platte Rivers flow down from the Rocky Mountains and bisect one the most endangered and altered grassland ecosystems on earth, their waters are taken out of the river’s channel and used for irrigation, municipal water supplies, flood control, hydroelectric power generation, and recreation. At present, more than 70% of historic flows are diverted before they reach central Nebraska and demands on the water supply continue to grow.
Audubon Nebraska’s Platte River Initiative strategically focuses efforts on partnerships and projects that mitigate pressure points and steer the watershed toward an ecological condition that aligns with the values of community members. We have identified target species, critical habitat, and prominent threats to which Audubon can provide meaningful and productive conservation outcomes. To support the restoration and maintenance of the braided river channel, Audubon and partners have identified a mixture of on-the-ground projects, partnerships with agencies and local communities, and adaptable water management policies.
The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive.