Water Users Pump Six-Billion Gallons

Water Users Pump Six-Billion Gallons


LINCOLN (NE) March 20, 2014 - By requiring meters on wells capable of pumping more than 50 gallons per minute, the Lower Platte South Natural Resources District now has a better idea how much ground water is being used. According to reports from 352 well owners throughout the District, which includes most of Lancaster and Cass counties and small parts of Butler, Saunders, Otoe and Seward counties, those wells pumped more than 6 billion gallons in 2013. The total includes ground water pumped from mostly irrigation, commercial and public water supply wells in the District, but does not include Lincoln's municipal wells, since most of them are located outside the NRD boundary. The total also does not include domestic wells, which are not required to have meters.

Even with all that water being pumped, a statewide drought in 2012 with only modest recovery since then gets most of the blame for generally lower ground water levels throughout the District in 2013. Thanks to cooperating landowners, the NRD continually monitors ground water quality and quantity through a network of wells District-wide. The NRD took 275 water level measurements from 140 different wells in 2013. The general decline matched results throughout the state. While none of the NRD's established annual trigger levels were met that would increase the level of quantity management by the NRD, the NRD Board did, last month, create a special management area in the Dwight-Valparaiso-Brainard area of the District, due to seasonal declines in ground water levels.

The 6-billion gallon usage figure is included in the NRD's Ground Water Annual Review, presented to the NRD Board of Directors on Wednesday. The annual summary of NRD ground water-related activity, required under its Ground Water Management Plan, includes results of NRD well monitoring for quality and quantity, information about each specially designated area of management in the District, statistics about NRD cost-sharing programs, water well permits, complaints, educational activities and more.

To monitor ground water quality, the NRD collected 384 samples from 235 different wells in 2013, testing for nitrates and a variety of other contaminants. Elevated nitrate levels in ground water, caused mainly by the application of nitrogen fertilizers on farm fields, lawns and gardens is, by far, the biggest ground water quality concern in the District. Elevated nitrate levels in ground water can cause health problems, especially in infants. Monitoring in 2013 indicated mostly steady nitrate levels and monitoring since 2008 shows a slight decline in nitrates District-wide, according to the report.

The complete 2013 Ground Water Annual Review is available at