Lower Big Blue NRD to Revise Groundwater Management Plan

Lower Big Blue NRD to Revise Groundwater Management Plan


At its regular monthly Board of Directors meeting on November 26, 2013 the Lower Big Blue Natural Resources District elected to enter into an immediate 180-day moratorium, or stay, on the construction of new irrigation wells pursuant to Nebraska Revised Statute 46-707 (2). The primary purpose for entering into the stay was to revise and update the District's Groundwater Management Plan. Specific items of the existing Groundwater Management Plan under consideration by the NRD include the sustainability of groundwater supplies in marginal aquifers, setbacks from domestic wells, commingled wells or the number of wells permitted to run in series, a ranking system for evaluating and determining whether the proposed location of a well is appropriate, certification of irrigated acres and a water transfer policy.

In the process of revising its Groundwater Management Plan, and under the consultation of Olsson Associates, the Lower Big Blue NRD Board of Directors and staff have worked diligently to develop and approve a plan draft that has been submitted to the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources for approval. Also during this time, the opportunity to submit comments on the considered plan items referenced above has been and remains available to the public. Comments received to-date were also taken into consideration during the revision process. An overview of revisions made to the Groundwater Management Plan is printed below.

The remaining schedule is as follows:
March - Receive review comments from DNR; continue to receive public input on revisions
March - Publish notices of revisions to the plan via news release(s), The Blue Buzz and the website (
March - Public hearing to receive comment
April or May Board Meeting - Approve revisions to the District Groundwater Management Plan 
• Existing Plan - No setback from domestic wells
• Revised Plan - In order to minimize conflicts between new and existing wells, a 500 foot spacing is required from a domestic well.
2. Test well requirement
• Existing Plan - No test well requirement or well ranking system
• Revised Plan - In order to provide the needed information for the well permit ranking system to be implemented, a test hole log would be required. Test holes must be drilled within 300 feet of the proposed well location.
3. Ranking system for the evaluation of new well permits
• A ranking system will be implemented for new well permits to determine well performance and water availability at the proposed well location. New wells are to meet a threshold of acceptability based on hydrogeologic parameters as well as proximity to existing wells. Evaluation criteria include thickness of the aquifer, transmissivity, well density around the proposed new well and proposed irrigation method.
• District allocations and additional mapping have been suggested by the committee and public, but until certification of acres and District mapping is completed, this is the recommended process when the District removes the stay no later than May 25, 2014.
4. Certification of irrigated acres
• In order to effectively manage groundwater quantity concerns, the District will require certification of irrigated acres throughout the District. By knowing the location and number of irrigated acres, groundwater management decisions can be made to ensure that the groundwater resources are being used efficiently and effectively.
5. Groundwater transfers
• In order to manage water use across the District, groundwater transfer permitting requirements have been revised.
o Transfers are limited to an adjacent section
o A transfer must be no more than 3,000 feet from the source
o Transfers of equal or less amount of acres from source well permitted
o Total irrigated acres in a transfer is limited to 160
o The source and destination section must be within the District
o District may deny transfer of groundwater into surface water impoundments
6. Wells in a series
• No more than two irrigation wells will be approved to apply water in a series.
1. A new application will require a test hole to be drilled. Information from the driller's log will be used to rank a proposed well's impact on surrounding wells;
2. The application will be evaluated with the ranking calculator;
3. The proposed well location must meet the 500 foot spacing requirement from domestic wells and 1,000 foot spacing requirement from irrigation wells;
4. An approved flowmeter will be required on the new well;
5. Transfers are limited to 3,000 feet from the source;
6. A maximum of 160 acres can be transferred for irrigation;
7. No transfers out of the District will be allowed.
The revisions also allow for variances to be approved by the Board.

January 30, 2014 - LBBNRD approves revisions for DNR review (30 to 90 day reviewing process)

Revisions to the Lower Big Blue NRD Groundwater Management Plan:

1. Setback of irrigation wells from domestic wells

Groundwater Management Areas - The language of the groundwater management areas in the District's existing plan will be changed from 'Control and Management' Areas to 'Phase I, II and III' Areas, but the same triggers were used from the original plan. Language was included to specify when an area could come out of the different Phases. Additional management options were made available to the Board in Phase II. Options available for enforcement include well spacing, flow meter requirements, water use allocation and crop rotation among others.

Examples of how these revisions affect new well applications after the stay ends: