In addition to supporting the regional agricultural economy and habitat for birds, fish, and other wildlife, the Platte River also provides drinking water for millions of people throughout the watershed. Communities downstream of the proposed interbasin transfer benefit not only from a reliable supply of water from the Platte, but improved quality of drinking water due to the filtering properties of the wetlands surrounding the river.
Although there may be times when streamflow coming down the Platte River is in excess of established water rights, the hydrology of the central Platte area allows these flows to replenish underlying aquifers - where the majority of Nebraska communities obtain water for household and industrial use. Especially following dry years, these high flows are not wasted, but instead provide the watershed an opportunity to recharge.
High streamflows also allow water to flow more readily into wetlands, which boosts wetland function and allows nearby cities and towns to benefit from cleaner water and enhanced recreational opportunities.
People from all over the nation and the world travel to the central Platte River for the unprecedented wildlife viewing and hunting opportunities – opportunities that bring millions of dollars into the local economy and would not exist without reliable, and occasionally high, streamflows in the river.
Allowing higher streamflows to run through the Platte River channel on a regular basis can also be beneficial to communities as a strategy for preventing localized flooding and associated impacts to property and livelihoods. Especially in areas where the river channel has been constricted, streamflows of greater volume are able to scour and flush built-up sediment and vegetation downstream, which widens the channel and gives the water more room to spread out the next time historic flooding occurs.
The benefits of keeping Platte River water in the Platte River may seem more indirect to humans than to birds, fish, and other wildlife, but this is only because the services provided by the river are so constant, and on most days, unimposing. But when one considers the cost of replacing the services that the Platte River provides to communities, the extraordinary value of streamflow to the people living in the watershed is better understood.