Nebraska’s Groundwater Irrigated Acres – Summary 2020

Date Updated
Resource Type
Resource Category
Water Quality
Water Quantity

State Statute 46-702 states:
The Legislature finds that ownership of water is held by the state for the benefit of its citizens, that ground water is one of the most valuable natural resources in the state, and that an adequate supply of ground water is essential to the general welfare of the citizens of this state and to the present and future development of agriculture in the state. The Legislature recognizes its duty to define broad policy goals concerning the utilization and management of groundwater and to ensure local implementation of those goals. The Legislature also finds that natural resources districts have the legal authority to regulate certain activities and, except as otherwise specifically provided by statute, as local entities are the preferred regulators of activities that may contribute to groundwater depletion.

As part of the management scheme; Natural Resources Districts (NRDs) are required to prepare, for approval, a plan that spells out groundwater management objectives to address both quantity and quality. Plans will identify thresholds, that if met will result in regulatory or other action. Said thresholds are codified in NRD rules and regulations. Per state statute 46-739 actions may include;

  • Allocation of amount of groundwater that may be withdrawn
  • Adoption of a rotation system of groundwater use
  • Well spacing requirements
  • Required measurement devices (i.e. flow meters)
  • A reduction in irrigated acres
  • Limit or prevent the expansion of irrigated acres
  • A moratorium on new wells or uses

It should be noted, the above list represents some of the regulatory actions that may be taken. Each NRD retains the option to adopt any other reasonable rules and regulations, as needed to address local conditions.

Groundwater supplies and use vary across the state as does the climate and these factors impact how groundwater is utilized. Each NRD has developed the Groundwater Management Plan, monitoring plan and accompanying rules and regulations to specifically address the local conditions.

The following is a summary of groundwater-irrigated acres in Nebraska along with some of the management actions that have been implemented. The purpose of this document is to provide a general overview of the groundwater-irrigated acres in Nebraska. Information on local rules, regulations and information can be obtained from individual NRDs.