Informed discussion about water supply and drought along a contested river just got a little easier, thanks to a new education and decision-support website, the Republican River Basin Water and Drought Portal. The National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC), based in the School of Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, led development of the portal in collaboration with Nebraska’s Lower, Middle, and Upper natural resources districts.
“I personally find it an extraordinary source of current and relevant information at my fingertips,” said Roger Lawson, information and education coordinator for the Middle Republican Natural Resources District. “The websites it takes me to are top-notch and current.”
The portal includes current news, a history of the basin, legal information, links to current water and drought monitoring, forecasting and impacts, and sections on management, planning, education and research. The Republican River flows through Colorado, Nebraska, and Kansas, and is the subject of both negotiated agreements and current litigation.
Cody Knutson, a water resources scientist at the NDMC who led the effort, noted that the portal was developed in cooperation with other related efforts in the basin, such as the work of the Republican River Restoration Partners, chaired by Ted Tietjen.
“Our objective is to get the three states to work together in resolving issues along the Republican River Basin,” Tietjen said. “It’s been kind of a challenge.” Tietjen’s organization helped co-host a meeting in Kansas to get input on the portal and to help make it clear that the portal isn’t just for Nebraskans. The team that developed the portal held listening sessions and made presentations at various locations in all three states in the basin beginning in March 2008, to learn what information stakeholders need.
Tonya Bernadt, NDMC research and outreach specialist, worked to align the information on the portal with stakeholders’ preferences. “It’s really a one-stop shop for stakeholders to utilize, whether they are farmers, water managers or the general public,” she said. “We hope we’ve created a site that will be beneficial to all three states.”
The portal’s development was sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Sectoral Applications Research Program (SARP), and is likely to become a prototype for other river-basin websites on drought.gov, the website of the National Integrated Drought Information System.
The Upper Republican Natural Resources District is hosting the portal, online at http://www.rrbdp.org