Irrigation Retirement Program Called Success in Southwest Nebraska

NRD and federal entities partner on Republican River projects to save water.

Published on: Jul 18, 2011

More than 1,100 acres of farmland where irrigation has significant and relatively immediate effects on the Republican River's stream flow will be permanently retired from irrigation following a successful first-year completion of a program jointly administered by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Upper Republican Natural Resources District.

The partnership between NRCS and the NRD was one of a handful of projects in the country approved this year under the NRCS' Agricultural Water Enhancement Program.  The program aims to increase stream flows and help replenish the Ogallala Aquifer in Dundy, Chase and Perkins counties by paying farmers for conservation easements that bar them from irrigating but allow them to continue dry land farming.

NRCS contributed $1 million to the partnership; the Upper Republican NRD $1.75 million, and in just two months, NRCS and the NRD enrolled the maximum number of acres possible with the available funds.  NRCS staff in the Imperial field office scored and ranked project applicants.

Approximately 875 acre feet, or over 285 million gallons of water a year that otherwise would have been used for irrigation will wind up in the Republican River due to the acreage retirement.

"This program exemplifies what can be achieved when government entities join hands to pursue a common purpose and conceive programs that ensure objectives are met.  Water that otherwise would not have ended up in the Republican River will seep into the river over the coming years and farmers will remain whole because of the funding provided by NRCS and the Upper Republican NRD under this program," said Nadine Bishop, NRCS District Conservationist for Dundy, Chase and Perkins Counties.