When discussing the state of Nebraska’s landscape, its rivers and the flooding, it’s important to know the origins of a major resource.
Michael Farrell and Mike Forsberg, founders of the Platte River Basin Timelapse project, a project started in 2011 with the goal of telling stories of the Basin through photographs, said it’s essential to know where the state’s water comes from because it is essential for life.
“It’s not just a conversation about the quantity of water, but it’s also quality of water,” Forsberg said, “We all should have an equal right to it, enough of it, and it should be clean.”
The origin of water for many Nebraskans in the eastern part of the state was discussed recently, but there are still a lot of details about the origination that “most people don’t have a clue about,” Farrell said.
In March of this year, water restrictions were placed on the city of Lincoln as crews worked to restore electricity to the wellfields in Ashland that were flooded by the Platte River. This became a topic throughout the city and surrounding areas, as citizens and business owners were asked to reduce their water consumption significantly.
Farrell and Forsberg said that while the water for the city of Lincoln and Omaha does come from these wellfields in Ashland, its journey begins much earlier.
They said that the state’s water supply starts with snow in the Colorado Rocky Mountains and is fed by the aquifer, as well as “the dumping of rain and snow from our water systems.” All of this water moves through a watershed.
According to the National Ocean Service, which is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, watersheds are “land areas that channel rainfall and snowmelt to creeks, streams, and rivers, and eventually to outflow points such as reservoirs, bays, and the ocean.”
“Just think of a watershed as a bathtub,” Forsberg said. “We all live in a watershed, and it’s where water from all these places goes to one place.”
The National Ocean Service said that during an increase in rain and snowfall, the additional water can overwhelm the rivers and watersheds, which can cause overflow and floods.
“Watersheds are our original, natural boundaries,” Forsberg said, “Nature pays no attention to the straight lines we impose.”
Similar to the uneven boundaries of watersheds and lines of rivers, Forsberg said their story, education and research “doesn’t stop at a straight line.”
“It starts up in the mountains and rolls into the plains and connects with the new story that is below us.”