Nebraska Department of Natural Resources to receive $350,000 from Reclamation's WaterSMART Basin Study Program for Niobrara River Basin Study

Media Contact: Brent Esplin, (308) 389-5310
Tyler Johnson, (406) 247-7609

For Release: August 19, 2010

The Nebraska Department of Natural Resources (NDNR) has been selected for a Bureau of Reclamation WaterSMART (Sustain and Manage America's Resources for Tomorrow) Basin Study for the Niobrara River Basin. Reclamation will provide $350,000 of federal funding and staff resources for the estimated $850,000 Niobrara Basin Study, which is one of six basin studies and two plans of studies selected to begin in 2010. Basin Study proposals were ranked and selected using a published set of criteria.

Through the WaterSMART Basin Study Program, Reclamation is partnering with basin stakeholders to conduct comprehensive studies to define options for meeting future water demands in targeted river basins in the West. Reclamation will collaborate with willing states and local entities on a 50/50 cost-share basis to conduct the studies. Basin studies will provide common understanding of water management problems, set joint goals to improve basin conditions, and conduct trade-off analyses to identify potential solutions to basin-wide water supply issues. The Basin Studies will incorporate the latest science, engineering technology, climate models and innovation. The desired outcomes are basin-specific plans recommending collaboratively developed solutions that will help meet water demands and foster sustainable development.

Niobrara River Basin and the underlying High Plains Aquifers are fully allocated water sources, but drought often results in substantial shortages to irrigation districts, hydropower facilities, and recreational areas. The Niobrara River Basin Study will assist in developing scientific information to help integrate management planning activities, identify the effects of climate change on future water supply and demand, and evaluate ways that water might be managed to ensure supply and demand remains in balance.

"The WaterSMART program provides us with an opportunity to work with our stakeholders and refine a plan for future water resource needs," said Aaron Thompson, the Nebraska-Kansas Area Office Manager. "The ultimate goal is to increase energy efficiency and improve environmental conditions while addressing water demands in Nebraska."

The Niobrara Basin Study will determine current and future water demands of the basin, assist in the development and implementation of Integrated Management Plans (IMPs) for the basin, identify opportunities for meeting water supply needs through structural and nonstructural means, and analyze the potential effects of climate variability on water supply.

Reclamation and NDNR will collaborate in the development of a groundwater model and a surface water operations model to test the effects and potential viability of various management strategies under both current and potential future conditions.

For more information on the WaterSMART program, visit

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Reclamation is the largest wholesale water supplier and the second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the United States, with operations and facilities in the 17 Western States. Its facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreation, and fish and wildlife benefits. Visit our website at and follow us on Twitter @USBR.

Relevant Link:

Nebraska-Kansas Area Office Home Page