North Platte River Water System Update

Snowpack that feed North Platte River water system
Figure 1. Snowpack on the Snowy Mountain Range that feeds the North Plate River system (archive photo). The US Bureau of Reclamation monitors snowpack to estimate the amount of water in the North Platte Basin likely to be available this growing season. (Photo by Gary Stone)

North Platte River Water System Update

North Platte River water operations and deliveries are expected to be normal for 2018, according to a water update and forecast of water operations presented at the Panhandle Research and Extension Center in Scottsbluff Wednesday.

No allocations are expected for the 2018 growing season with an expected demand of 1.1 million acre-feet. Allocations would be made when irrigation water supplies are below expected demand for the irrigators.  Allocations would depend on water right holder date and amount, usually with the “first in time, first in right” priority basis. Current total North Platte River system storage in the Wyoming reservoir system is 2.0 million acre-feet of water. The  forecasted runoff (snowmelt) for the reservoirs above Glendo reservoir is 615,000 acre-feet of water.

Snowpack on the

  • Upper Platte basin is at 96% of normal,
  • Sweetwater basin is 88%,
  • Lower Platte basin is 74%, and
  • the Laramie River basin is at 110% of normal.

Projected storage/carryover for all reservoirs in the system is 1,685,600 acre-feet of water projected for September 30, 2018.

North Platte River Teacup Model

Figure 2. US Bureau of Reclamation TEACUP model showing the North Platte River water operations, river flows, and reservoir levels. (Larger version, Source: US Bureau of Reclamation)

Runoff from the Upper North Platte River basin is expected to be slightly below average into Seminoe reservoir and the runoff into Glendo from the Lower North Platte River basin will be below average. The US Bureau of Reclamation is currently moving water from Seminoe reservoir to Pathfinder reservoir in anticipation of the runoff.

Graph showing snow water equivalent
Figure 3. Average snow water equivalent and snow water equivalent for 2017 and so far in 2018 above Seminoe Reservoir (Source: US Bureau of Reclamation)
Graph showing snow water equivalent above Glendo Reservoir
Figure 4. Average snow water equivalent and snow water equivalent for 2017 and so far in 2018 above Glendo Reservoir (Source: US Bureau of Reclamation)

The Bureau also reported on the operation and maintenance projects for the Guernsey and Fremont Canyon power plants. The surge tank at the Guernsey power plant will be painted and the butterfly valve and the scroll case at the Fremont Canyon power plant will be coated. These projects will be done in fall 2018. The Guernsey power plant roller intake gate will be repaired in fall 2020. The main spillway gate maintenance at Guernsey dam is completed and operational. The dam raise, auxiliary spillway, and dike toe drain at Glendo have been completed.

The Bureau of Reclamation will now hold a single annual spring meeting to update water operations, unless special situations develop. The next meeting will be in spring 2019 in Torrington, Wyoming.

For more information on the North Platte River Surface Irrigation Projects and Power Generation, view the slideshare presentation found on the UNL Panhandle Research and Extension web page at

Bureau of Reclamation water operations information can be found at their website