2012 brought one of the most severe regional droughts to Nebraska. Citizens, particularly farmers, struggled to meet their water needs. Following that drought, the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) understood that it didn’t have an effective response protocol to manage water resources during periods of regional drought. The NRD knew that to protect the people depending on water, and to protect the water resources themselves, they needed to be better prepared.
To help the LENRD manage water resources, we were hired to write a drought mitigation plan (DMP). During plan development, we launched a drought tournament to establish what drought response protocols were currently in place. Dozens of stakeholders and local experts attended and provided valuable insight into local vulnerabilities and current drought protocols. We then reviewed more than 100 years of historical records to define LENRD-specific drought phases. And since plan completion, the DMP has provided a scientific basis for the update of groundwater management policy within the district and will continue as a foundation for drought mitigation and response.
The LENRD’s DMP was the first of its kind in the state, bringing an innovative solution to a complex problem. The DMP educates stakeholders about the threats posed by drought and outlines protocols to mitigate future drought impacts across the district. Now implemented for several years, the LENRD’s DMP consolidates drought response protocol across the LENRD, ensures a swift and consistent response to drought indicators, and protects water resources for the region.