Our Town Holdrege: The Water Project

Phelps County farmers are fortunate. Not only do they own some of the best farm land in the state of Nebraska, they've also been blessed with a water supply that would make most farmers quite envious.

When you combine great soil with plenty of water, good things often happen. Phelps County farmers are grateful for Charles McConaughy. Because he had an early vision that life could be a lot better in the Phelps County area. McConaughy felt that a more stable supply of water was what was needed to have these soils be as productive as possible.

Back in the early 1900's, McConaughy had a vision to bring supplemental irrigation water into Phelps, Gosper and Kearney counties. His project evolved into the creation of the largest man-made water reservoir in Nebraska... Lake McConaughy.

Water was first delivered from Lake McConaughy to Phelps County farms in the early 40's.

Dave Ford is an Irrigation Division Manager at Central Nebraska Public Power & Irrigation District and he says that Phelps County is a great place to farm, "We've got a great water supply, the Ogallala Aquifer lies beneath our soil and obviously The Project is 75 years old bringing water into this area, not only providing water for the farmers, but also recharging that aquifer, it's been a great benefit for this area during that period of time."

Marcia Trompke is Conservation Director for Central Public Power and she says The Project changed everything back in the 1940's, "When Central first delivered water to these 3 counties, the farmers brought the water to their crops in lathe wood box pipelines. Before the water came they were growing 12 bushel corn and after the water came the first year the water was delivered here they jumped to 120 bushel corn."

And today, 3 generations later, 270 bushel corn is not out of the norm. This year, Central expects to break the 500 center pivot mark meaning more than half of the land receiving Central water will be covered in center pivots. Marcia adds, "We have it so good here. We are so blessed, this is the agricultural mecca of the world."