Thursday, July 14, 2011

Beating the Heat in Water

by Jamie Oltman, The Groundwater Foundation
It’s summer! In Nebraska that means heat and humidity. 

To beat the heat of summer many of us tend to visit water rich places to cool off.  Popular destinations in Nebraska include Lake McConaughy, the Missouri River, and the Niobrara River. 

What does the summer of 2011 bring for these water rich destinations?

Lake McConaughy
Lake McConaughy is Nebraska’s largest reservoir spanning 35,700 surface acres. This summer flows have reached almost 100%. Last year the lake was at 75% capacity. The lake has not reached this capacity in over 10 years. Inflows to the lake have been above normal this year due to above average snowpack in Colorado and Wyoming. The lake is a great place to visit. To learn more about Lake McConaughy visit,

The Missouri River
In past years the Missouri river welcomed many recreational water sports. This summer the US Coast Guard closed the Missouri river to all recreational boat traffic. High rainfall from Montana has increased water releases from the reservoirs upstream causing the need for increased discharge at Gavins Point Dam. There are many Nebraska State Parks along and close to the Missouri river. The flooding has caused the boat docks to close but the parks are still open and welcoming visitors. Visit to learn more about the effects of the Missouri River flooding and impact on the State Parks. 

The Niobrara River
The Niobrara River flows along the northern border of Nebraska and is known as a great river to canoe, tube, or kayak. The river provides beautiful views of prairie and bluffs. With all the rain and snow causing flooding this spring the Niobrara Scenic River portion of the Niobrara has not been affected. This is because this portion of the river is mainly fed by groundwater from the High Plains Aquifer. The river is impacted more by water withdrawals due to irrigation than rainfall and snowmelt. To learn more visit

Where does the water in your favorite lake, stream or river come from? Think about the environmental and human impacts that could affect that body of water. Is it currently affected by drought or flooding? Are there potential pollution hazards? Are there things you can do to help keep your favorite spot clean and healthy? 

Next time you sit back and relax on a hot summer day with your toes in the water at your favorite water rich location take a second to reflect on this precious resource.

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