The North Platte NRD uses a variety of technologies to provide the staff and Directors with the best information available. Below are some of the technologies that are used.
Geographic Information System (GIS)
“A geographic information system (GIS) integrates hardware, software, and data for capturing, managing, analyzing, and displaying all forms of geographically referenced information. GIS allows us to view, understand, question, interpret, and visualize data in many ways that reveal relationships, patterns, and trends in the form of maps.”
At the North Platte NRD, GIS facilitates many of our day-to-day tasks. The NRD deploys GIS technology on mobile devices to collect data for flow meter reads, flow meter maintenance, monitoring well water elevation levels, and compliance with allocation rules. We also use GIS maps to display the relationships between ground water certifications, wells, legal descriptions, flow meters, and aerial photography. These maps allow staff to quickly search for properties throughout the North Platte NRD and identify specific attributes associated with the property (e.g. ownership, well information, flow meter inspections, and ground water certification information).
Intricate Mapping Capabilities
GIS also allows the North Platte NRD to interpret data for creating maps that display changes and geographic trends. Using interpolations, mathematical methods to estimate values between two known points, the North Platte NRD creates maps to show changes in ground water levels throughout the district. These maps are generated every spring to allow water managers the ability to observe the increase or decrease of water levels in the North Platte NRD aquifer systems over a period of time.
Working with GIS Technology
The North Platte NRD uses GIS in various ways to achieve its objectives. From simple planning of daily activities to complex spatial analysis, GIS is used in many facets. The North Platte NRD continues to explore many areas in the GIS arena to increase efficiency and provide valuable information to its constituents.
Western Water Use Management Model
The North Platte NRD uses the data gathered and incorporates the information into a ground water models to enhance their decision-making capabilities. The models are used to simulate conditions in the aquifers, and they can be used to predict future conditions. By better understanding how the water system works, the NRD will have a better tool to work towards one of its main goals protecting the District’s water resources for the future.
In the past, the North Platte NRD relied on a groundwater model developed through the Cooperative Hydrology Study (COHYST). The model covered the Platte, Republican, and Loups River basins. In order to get a more accurate picture of the aquifers in the Panhandle, the North Platte and South Platte NRDs developed the Western Water Use Management Model. The model specifically focuses on Scotts Bluff, Morrill, Garden, Banner, Kimball, Duel, Cheyenne, and Southern Sioux Counties.
The NRD will use the model to focus on:
- Understanding water use and how it has changed over time
- Better understand both surface and ground water to determine if the Integrated Management Plan goals are being met
- How drought, conservation measures, groundwater pumping effect the whole water system
- Provides an evaluation of management decisions.
Using the Data
The model incorporates geology, hydrogeology, hydrology, types and methods of water use, crop types, groundwater recharge, certified acres, weather data, and other factors and puts them all together to illustrate how the water system works. It will also determine how different factors can influence the system. For example, if the NRD wanted to conduct a ground water recharge project, the model would be able to determine the best location to get the water into the ground and the effects the project will have on the both the aquifer and North Platte River.
LiDAR collects highly accurate topographic data by using an airplane or helicopter to fly over an area. The aircraft is fitted with laser sensors, and as the craft moves, the laser sensors shoot beams down and back up to record the data. The beams can penetrate tree canopies and other obstructions, so the data is a truer representation of the topography. The GPS antenna is also mounted on the aircraft and coordinates with GPS base units on the ground. As the aircraft moves along, the laser sensors are picking up the topography information and GPS coordinates are being coordinated with the data to create a highly accurate map.
LiDAR is more accurate than the older technology currently in use, and has many benefits to a wide variety of entities and businesses in the District. First of all, the NRD will get a great tool to use in its flood control efforts. The District will be able to reevaluate current flood control structures for drainage problems and discover potential problem areas. Whether it is as big as the Gering Valley or as small as a low spot in a field, LiDAR can be used to help protect both lives and property from floods.
The data from LiDAR can also be used in the Western Water Model. Better data of the topography of the District can help further define the canal system and surface water system which in turn can help with integrated management efforts.
Data from LiDAR could be used by producers to generate highly defined elevation maps of their fields, which could be used for precision farming applications. According to an NRCS project fact sheet, LiDAR can be used for “engineering design and design reviews” which would include “irrigation design, pivots, pipelines, surge valves, and livestock pipelines.”