Nebraska consortium to present drought plan

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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska natural resource districts, water utilities and state officials are preparing to present a collaborative report identifying additional water sources for Lincoln and Omaha and ways to replenish the Lower Platte River during drought.

The Lower Platte River Basin Consortium will hold a public meeting Wednesday in Lincoln to share details of its drought contingency plan, the Omaha World-Herald reported. The collaboration comes after a 2012 drought that put a strain on the Lower Platte River, the section of the Platte River that divides the Omaha-Lincoln metro corridor and serves about 80 percent of Nebraska's population.

The consortium published a draft analysis last month on eight potential sources of extra water, ranging in cost from $6 million to almost $250 million. Options that might supply the most water include building reservoirs on creeks, piping in water from the Missouri River or tapping into a nearby aquifer, according to the report.

It's the first time water managers, such as natural resource districts and the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources, have collaborated to chart a path forward with utilities, such as the Lincoln Water System and the Metropolitan Utilities District of Omaha, said Steve Owen, Lincoln's water production superintendent.

All groups are concerned about the impacts of global warming on the state. Nebraska is projected to experience typical summer temperatures equivalent to those during the 2012 drought and heat wave in between 20 and 50 years, according to an analysis by the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.

"As Nebraskans, we should all be mutually concerned that we're able to deliver water to all of our communities," said Rick Kubat, government affairs attorney for MUD. "It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when (water will be needed). Rather than being reactionary to that situation, the purpose of the consortium is to be proactive."

The consortium will next evaluate the best options through drought monitoring and test scenarios.

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