Each District has local leadership responsibilities for protecting surface and groundwater from overuse (Quantity) and pollution (Quality). Each District has a groundwater management plan to protect water through both Quantity & Quality monitoring. State law has given NRDs a variety of regulatory tools, to deal with contamination, shortages or user conflicts. NRDs encourage water stewardship by providing financial assistance to landowners for irrigation water management, well decommissioning and best management practices to protect water quantity and quality.
The state’s productivity is constantly challenged with soil erosion caused by wind and water. NRDs work to offset these natural forces by installing terraces, grassed waterways, grade stabilization structures, buffer strips, building dams, planting windbreaks and improving range management. NRDs have the authority to mitigate erosion through the “Erosion & Sediment Control Act.”
Conservation is just as important in cities as it is in rural areas. The activities of city residents have a major impact on water and soil—activities such as construction, tending lawns & gardens, maintaining motor vehicles and the use of hazardous chemicals, as well as solid waste disposal. NRDs respond to these needs by focusing resources and programs toward urban problems and issues. They include urban forestry, urban park development & improvement, wellhead protection, flood control, streambank stabilization, recreation and education.
From Gering Valley in the Nebraska Panhandle to Papio Creek in the Omaha metropolitan area, NRDs employ a watershed protection approach. With flood plain management measures the NRDs design and build dams, levees, dikes, drainage ditches and other stabilization structures to keep flood waters from taking lives or damaging crops, buildings and roads. The Upper Big Blue NRD has built 45 flood control structures since 1972, ensuring to protect lives and property from devastating flood events now and into the future.
The NRD Conservation Tree Program helps landowners with planting windbreaks, reducing soil erosion, crop and livestock sheltering, and habitat creation. Each year, the NRDs sell a wide variety of trees & shrubs for conservation use, as well as assist landowners with plot designs and planting. Programs such as WILD NEBRASKA and CORNERS FOR WILDLIFE pay landowners to set aside land for creating wildlife habitat. The NRDs partner with these programs to help facilitate the means for landowners to participate. Since 1972, collectively the NRDs have planted over 55 million trees and installed over 6,000 miles of weed barrier throughout Nebraska.
Many recreational opportunities such as trails, lakes, parks, and wildlife areas are built and maintained by NRDs. Many NRD projects are developed for multiple purposes: Recreational trails are built atop of flood control levees or along abandoned railroad lines; Dams that are built for flood control often develop into recreational areas; Habitat areas are also available to hunters…and wetlands are often preserved for interpretive nature study. The Upper Big Blue NRD manages five recreation areas totaling 640 acres of water and land. Some of the best “fishin’ holes” in south central Nebraska are found at these NRD lakes.
Grazing lands provide homes for wildlife, recreational opportunities and a way of life for livestock and wildlife producers. With proper management, grazing lands can recharge the state’s aquifers, help promote water quality and prevent soil erosion. NRDs encourage stewardship by providing financial assistance for planned grazing systems, including constructing cross-fencing systems and pipelines for livestock water. There are nearly 23 million acres of rangeland and pasture land in Nebraska—half of which are in the Sandhills.
Each year, thousands of elementary school students are given hands-on outdoor education experiences through their local NRD. Water festivals and other Resources Management Field Days have proven to be valuable teaching tools. At the secondary level, the “Envirothon” and Land & Range Judging competitions are challenging opportunities for high school age students to demonstrate their knowledge of soils, aquatics, wildlife and other natural resource management topics. NRDs assist teachers with curriculum for classroom discussions on conservation. Newsletters (what you are reading right at the moment), various publications, and speaking engagements also help to spread the conservation message. The Upper Big Blue NRD’s CROP-TIP demonstration site in York has been informing producers with tangible data regarding limited irrigation and fertilizer application, thus helping to increase their bottom line with conservation techniques.
Upper Big Blue Natural Resources District