Water Tours began in the mid-1970s under the direction of Dr. Leslie Sheffield, a UNL Extension Farm Management Specialist and later outreach programs coordinator for the Nebraska Water Center / Environmental Programs. The annual event began as an educational activity to highlight water resources projects and irrigated agriculture.
The tours were designed to enhance understanding and appreciation for water management in Nebraska and participants flocked to them from many water-related state and federal agencies, the Natural Resources Districts, from UNL and from farms, ranches and other locales across the state. Tour sponsors and co-planners through the years have included the Nebraska Water Conference Council, Nebraska Water Center and IANR, Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce, Nebraska Association of Resources Districts, Nebraska Public Power District, Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District and several private companies, including banks and irrigation equipment manufacturers.
Sheffield was Executive Secretary of the Water Conference Council for 10 years, from 1972 to 1982, when the Nebraska Water Center director assumed that position. Nonetheless, Sheffield continued organizing the tours until approximately 1993 when Bob Kuzelka, assistant to the director of the Nebraska Water Center, stepped into that role.
NWC faculty member J. Michael Jess began organizing the tours in 1999 and remained in the role of tour leader through 2016. Jess was committed to expanding the themes and content of the annual tours to include natural resources issues, as well as water issues. Under his leadership, the tours have resumed occasional travel out of the state, as they periodically did during the Sheffield years.
Longtime tour co-organizers Steve Ress of the NWC and Jeff Buettner of The Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District in Holdrege took over tour planning and organization after Jess’ retirement. Ress has been on every tour but one since 1997 and Buettner has been a stalwart tour planner for more than a dozen years. One of their areas of emphasis with the tour has been to expand its reach to students and young water and natural resource professionals.
The tour’s primary, organizing partners currently include the NWC, CNPPID, The Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute at the University of Nebraska, NU’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources and Nebraska Public Power District. Individual Natural Resources Districts and the Nebraska Water Balance Alliance are frequent tour co-sponsors, as well, among others.
Previous Water Tours
- June 27-29, 2017: 46th annual tour visits Nebraska’s central Platte River basin.
- June 14-16, 2016: 45th Annual Water and Natural Resources Tour.
- June 23-25, 2015: Water and Natural Resources Tour explores Republican River Basin.
- July 15-18, 2014: Water and Natural Resources Tour: Upper Platte River Watershed.
- June 25-26, 2013: Water and Natural Resources Tour: East Central Nebraska.
- July 17-19, 2012: Water and Natural Resources Tour: Lessons from the 2011 Missouri River Flood.
- July 12-14, 2011: Water and Natural Resources in North Central Nebraska.
- July 12-15, 2010: Water Tour to North and South Platte Basins.
- June 15-18, 2009: Northern California's Bay-Delta
- June 3-5, 2008: Republican River basin in Nebraska and Kansas
- June 4-7, 2007: New Mexico's Pecos River Basin: Compare and Contrast with Nebraska's Republican River Compact
- July 18-20, 2006: Northeast Nebraska and the Missouri River, including Gavins Point Dam
- June 28-30, 2005: Irrigation and Natural Resources Issues in the Sandhills and Pine Ridge Area and Local Response to LB 962
- June 7-9, 2004: Competing Uses for Platte River Water and Basin Development
- July 21-22, 2003: Republican River Water Issues, including visiting facilities directly related to compliance with terms of the lawsuit settlement
- July 22-25, 2002: Following the North Platte River in Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming
- June 18-20, 2001: Urban Water Quality and Quantity Concerns, including visits to flood control projects, urban natural resources districts and the US EPA offices in Kansas City, Missouri.
- July 24-26, 2000: Water Transfer and Marketing Tour in Nebraska and Colorado, including Colorado water conservancy districts, Upper Republican NRD
- July 19-21, 1999: Northeast and north central Nebraska, including Loup Public Power District hydrogenerating plant, flood control projects, Ted Turner Ranch
- August 11-13, 1998: Arkansas and Republican River Basin Tours into Kansas and Eastern Colorado.
- 1997: No UNL tour; Four States Irrigation Council Tour to Colorado.
- July 22-24, 1996: Republican River Basin Tour, including groundwater and surface water management projects
- July 18-19, 1995: Grand Island and central Nebraska, including a variable rate application technology site, Mid-NE Water Quality Demonstration site and the US Meat Animal Research Center at Clay Center
- July 25-28, 1994: Missouri River tour focused on flood recovery efforts, including water construction activities, flood prevention construction and flood damage
- July 21-23, 1993: Groundwater recharge projects, irrigated farms and wildlife sites in central and south-central Nebraska
- July 19-24, 1992: 2,000 mile-long tour of North and South Dakota in the Missouri River Basin, focusing on surface water management.
- July 22-26, 1991: Management of the North and South Platte Rivers in Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska
- August 5-11, 1990: Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, featuring water conservation techniques of drip irrigation and a weather modification project
- August 1989: Management, Resources and Conservation in the Sandhills, including Calamus Dam and Reservoir, Upper Big Blue NRD, Nebraska National Forest
- July 14-15, 1988: Lower Platte South, Lower Big Blue, Nemaha and Papio NRDS.
- September 10-17, 1988: Tour of Pacific Northwest (Oregon and Washington) including irrigation districts, farms, reservoirs and Bonneville and Grand Coulee Dams.
- August 11-13, 1987: South-central and Southwest Nebraska, including stops at Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation, Johnson Lake, site of a proposed dam on Plum Creek and various farms
- February 8-13, 1987: Water Irrigation Tour to Lake Havasu City, Arizona, and visit the first US Bureau of Reclamation project, the Salt River Project, the Central Arizona Project, University of Arizona Maricopa Agricultural Center, Paloma Ranch and Red Mountain Farms.
- August 1986: Alliance, Chadron, Crawford and Douglas, Wyoming.
- October 1985: Tour of Nebraska's Rainwater Basin to share knowledge and develop a common understanding of the Rainwater Basin area among researchers, policy makers and resource managers.
- August 16-17, 1984: Tour of Central and Northeast Nebraska including NPPD, the Calamus Dam and Reservoir, Twin Loups Irrigation and Platte River Habitat Trust.
- August 17-20, 1983: Southwest Nebraska and Northeast Colorado, rural, municipal and state water development projects in both states
- August 11-13, 1982: Tour of water developments in South Dakota and large irrigated farms.
Nebraska Water Center