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Research and Management

helicopter survey


District officials are constantly striving to have a better understanding of our natural resources. Learning more about resources, how to use them wisely and the things that impact them are all paramount to the district mission. To that end, the district is always looking for the best possible information.

Most recently, the district has been able to take a different look at the area's hydrogeology, thanks to efforts made in cooperation with the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the North Platte NRD and the Nebraska Environmental Trust.

Since June 2008, a number of helicopter flight have been made over the South Platte and North Platte NRDs, using electronic frequencies to take pictures similar to a "cat scan." The readings are formatted for use by the USGS, who in turn take the readings and apply the data to form reports on the area hydrogeology. The resulting high definition relief maps can reveal a lot about an area’s aquifers. It is hoped officials will be able to determine the aquifer volumes, as well as the textures. By knowing textures, officials can have an idea on ground water movement.


Metric ExampleOne of the requirements of the Nebraska Groundwater Management and Protection Act is that areas where water use has been deemed overappropriated, or being used faster than it is replenished, must return to the same levels as in 1997.

The South Platte NRD is working with UNL on a process that could aid natural resources districts determine the amount of water used in 1997. Scientists from the University of Nebraska and University of Idaho are using a system referred to as METRIC – for Mapping EvapoTranspiration with High Resolution and Internal Calibration. Developers refer to it as a “hybrid” energy balance program that uses thermal bands from Landsat (satellite) imagery to compute ET (evapotranspiration). The system combines the satellite data with ground-based data to determine ET.

Scientists know that ET, the rate of the combined loss of water from a combination of soil evaporation and plant transpiration, can be used to help determine how much water has been used in crop production or gone into the aquifer. Combining those numbers with known crops, researchers should be able to develop locally calibrated Kc (crop coefficient) curves for Panhandle crops.

With that information, researchers may help fulfill another objective of producing NRD-specific Consumptive Water Use (CWU) maps.