Groundwater Quality

Groundwater Quality

NRDs Are Managing Water Statewide:

Nebraska’s 23 Natural Resources Districts (NRDs) are uniquely positioned to manage the conservation of the state’s natural resources through local

governance.  Because of Nebraska’s diverse geology, climatology, and hydrology, each NRD—and it’s locally elected board of directors—are able to enact rules, regulations, and programs that can assist its District’s citizens and protect local natural resources for future generations to share.  Water management regulations in particular include allocating groundwater, augmenting surface water, requiring flow meters, instituting well drilling moratoriums, requiring water use reports, and restricting the expansion of irrigated acres.  Individual NRDs use these regulations in different combinations and to different degrees depending on their respective geographic areas of concern.  Click on the Statewide Water Quality Map showing all 23 NRDs and their most recent status of water management techniques. 

So why does this matter to you?   Quite simply, Nebraska’s NRDs are working to ensure that you and future generations can continue to share in the use and enjoyment of our natural resources.  Nebraska’s NRDs:  Protecting Lives, Protecting Property, and Protecting the Future...

 

AQWACAP - Well Abandonment Cost-Share

AQWACAP - Well Abandonment Cost-Share
AQWACAP - Well Abandonment Cost-Share

Aquifer Quality Well Abandonment Cost-Share Assistance Program

This program provides cost-share for proper decommissioning of abandoned wells.  Wells must be decommissioned according Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services System regulations governing water well abandonment standards.  All decommissioning activities must be conducted by a licensed water well contractor.  The cost-share rate is 60 percent of the actual labor and materials.

The maximum cost-share rates for the proper plugging of wells of various casing diameters are as follows:

All wells (except hand dug)          $500                          Hand dug wells                           $700

All below ground pipe and any above ground pipe, tower or apparatus that may impede the plugging activity must be removed.  Any cost incurred for this removal is not eligible for cost-share. The District may require that a district representative be present during the actual plugging process.  (This will be done on a random basis.)

Application Process:  The well owner must submit a completed “Aquifer Quality Well Abandonment Cost-Share Assistance Program Application”. State and Federal laws also require that two additional forms be completed and on file with the District. They are the “United States Citizenship Attestation From” and “Form W-9 Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification”. The well owner or his/her power of attorney must sign the completed forms.  For an application packet please contact the NRD office or go to:

Cost-Share payments will only be made to 1 individual or entity.  If there are multiple landowners PLEASE complete information for only 1 individual or entity.  Completed Taxpayer Identification Form (W-9) MUST match the name of the individual or entity applying for cost-share.

The cost-share application must be approved by the Upper Big Blue NRD before work may begin.  If an emergency replacement of a well is required, after the fact cost-share is available for the old well.  Emergency replacement includes an irrigation well needed for a growing crop or a domestic, livestock or commercial well when no other water source is available.  An application for after the fact cost-share must be received within 30 days after plugging the well.

Claim and Payment Process: A copy of the water well contractors itemized billing statement showing quantities of materials used in decommissioning the well must be provided to the Upper Big Blue NRD.  All final payments must be approval by the Upper Big Blue NRD Board of Directors prior to payment.

 

CROP-TIP

CROP-TIP
CROP-TIP

(Cornerstone Resources Observation Plot-Test Irrigation Project)

Here’s how it all started...Cornerstone Bank (York, NE) representatives, Roger Burgess and Adam Thompson met with the Upper Big Blue NRD Water Department staff in early January2004 to inquire if the NRD would be interested in forming a collaborative partnership sharing a 24-acre site that Cornerstone manages along Highway 81 (just north of the Moses Motor Company in York, Nebraska) to be designated as an agricultural demonstration and educational site project.  

The project called the “Cornerstone Resources Observation Plot — Test Irrigation Project” or “CROP-TIP” aids producers and farmers through testing results.  Dan Leininger, Water Conservationist for the Upper Big Blue NRD, oversees this project as well as WATER-TIP (Irrigation Scheduling Equipment Program).  Dan would be happy to visit with you about your operation and how both CROP-TIP results and WATER-TIP equipment can benefit you.

Chemigation

Chemigation
Chemigation

There are three key components to equipping your system for chemigation.  First, you will need to have an approved chemigation check valve.  This valve differs from a normal check valve in that it has a removable vacuum relief valve and a low pressure drain.  The second component is the electrical or mechanical interlock.  This ensures that if the well would shut down, pivot gets stuck, or the pivot loses pressure that the entire system shuts down (this includes the injection pump).  The final component is the chemical injection check valve.  This small valve fits between the fertilizer tank and the irrigation system.  Its purpose is to prevent the backflow of water from the irrigation system into the fertilizer tank.  All three of these components must be in proper working order to pass the field inspection.

Nitrate Levels

Nitrate Levels
Nitrate Levels

Water Testing

Water Testing
Water Testing

Wellhead Protection

Wellhead Protection
Wellhead Protection

Hastings Utilities Aquifer Storage & Restoration

The City of Hastings is experiencing an increase in nitrate contamination of its water supply.  Nitrate contamination has been found throughout the local aquifer extending as far west as the Platte River.  To provide for a long-term reliable supply of potable water for the City of Hastings, Hastings Utilities is developing an Aquifer Storage and Restoration Project.  This project combines several water management options which include Dual Pumping, Aquifer Storage and Restoration, Focused Water Treatment, Irrigation Reuse and Management and Blending.

The dual pumping operation will separate nitrate contaminated water within an operating well.  This is accomplished by installing two or more pumps in a well and skimming the top water off which has the higher levels of nitrates.  The water treatment will be limited to the high nitrate waters removed from the containment wells.  The clean water captured by the containment wells and the cleaned waters that are produced by the water treatment system will be re-injected into the aquifer for storage and use by the existing city water supply wells.

Wastewater generated by the treatment system and dual pumping will be used for agricultural and park irrigation.  This is being done to beneficially dispose of the high nitrate waters.  Additionally, this use of the high nitrate waters for irrigation will then allow irrigation wells located within the Aquifer Storage and Restoration recharge zone to be turned off thus limiting this water for use only by the existing city wells.  Blending and above ground storage will be used to meet the daily demands of the city.

The estimated cost for water treatment is $75,000,000 for the City of Hastings.  The Aquifer Storage and Restoration Project is estimated to cost $46,000,000.

 

Nitrate Management Zone

Nitrate Management Zone
Nitrate Management Zone

Changes to District Rule 5 for setting the trigger levels in Phase II and Phase III management areas went into effect on February 1, 2013.  The Phase II trigger is 7 milligrams per liter (mg/l).  Zone 2 has a median groundwater nitrate level of 7.4 mg/l.  

Phase II producers are required to use electrical resistance blocks or capacitance probes to schedule irrigation in one field.  Scheduling irrigation using soil moisture information can reduce the risk of excess irrigation leaching nutrients from the root zone.  In a Phase II Management Area, producers are also required to take deep (24”) soil samples for residual nitrate in a corn field where corn will be planted again. It also requires producer training and annual reporting of management practices.

Increasing nitrates in groundwater have been a concern in the Upper Big Blue NRD for several years. Several communities in the District have found it necessary to construct new wells to comply with state and federal drinking water standards.  Some communities have built, or are considering, treatment plants.  Many rural residents have also replaced wells or installed private water treatment systems.

Nitrate is found naturally in the environment, however excess nitrates that are causing groundwater contamination come primarily from the use of commercial fertilizers.  Nitrogen fertilizer is needed to produce corn, however the amount and timing of the fertilizer application can reduce the risks of groundwater contamination.  Anhydrous ammonia is the most common form of nitrogen fertilizer used throughout the District.

Since 1996, the NRD has required that farmers wait until November 1st to apply anhydrous, and to wait until March 1st to apply other formulations of nitrogen fertilizer.  In some parts of the District where groundwater nitrate is the highest, farmers are required by existing regulations to attend training classes, take soil samples, and calculate crop nitrogen needs.  Despite these efforts, groundwater nitrate levels have continued to rise.  The proposed changes to District Rule 5 are designed to encourage farmers to adopt fertilizer management practices that will reduce the opportunity time for nitrate leaching out of the crop root zone.