Tri-Basin NRD Release Survey Data About Little Blue NRD Groundwater Issues

Tri-Basin NRD Release Survey Data About Little Blue NRD Groundwater Issues


The Tri-Basin NRD Board of Directors is trying to decide the most effective way to respond to groundwater declines in the Little Blue River Basin in eastern Kearney County. 

The board has met with water users numerous times over the years in an effort to educate the public about groundwater issues and to hear ideas from constituents about how to address these problems. While these meetings have been productive and helpful to the board, they have generally involved small groups of water users. The board wanted to get opinions from a broader cross-section of the public. For this reason, during the March board meeting, the Tri-Basin NRD Board directed NRD staff to develop a survey questionnaire and distribute it as widely as possible to water users in the Little Blue Basin portion of the district. 

Tri-Basin staff sent out 529 surveys by mail, and another 100 people received a link by text message which allowed them to fill out the survey online. The district has received 159 responses so far, as of the date of the April board meeting (April 13). Following is a preliminary summary of survey responses:

  • More than 84% of survey respondents are aware that groundwater levels in the Little Blue River basin are declining. Sixteen percent of respondents stated that they have been affected directly by the declines, having to reset pumps deeper or take other actions to respond to declining well output.
  • When asked which regulatory actions the NRD should take to respond to groundwater declines, nearly 60% of respondents said that the NRD should require flowmeters on wells and annual water use reporting.  Many water users commented that they think requiring flowmeters would be a useful practice district-wide, not just in the Little Blue Basin.
  • About 40% of water users favor some limitation on the amount of groundwater that can be pumped.  About 1/3 of respondents favor a water use limit of nine inches per acre per year or less, while about 40% want a limit of 9.5” or more.  Many constituents commented that a multiple year allocation is needed and more practical than annual limits on pumping.
  • When asked about incentives that the NRD could offer to reduce groundwater pumping, more than 60% indicated support for cost-share funding for irrigation efficiency improvements.  Cash payments for conserving water and giving irrigators more flexibility about where they can irrigate if water supplies are limited were also supported by about 40% of respondents.
  • Respondents were split about what they believe the NRD should use as a “trigger” level for deciding when to initiate regulations to protect groundwater supplies.  About 30% want us to continue to compare current groundwater levels to 1981-85 average levels.  Twenty eight percent support the concept of comparing current saturated thickness of the aquifer to aquifer thickness in the past.  Nearly as many (26%) support using Little Blue NRD’s trigger, which is tied to 2016 water levels.  Many other options were also proposed.

Many respondents also took time to write comments, so the NRD board will have a lot of information to sift through. The NRD Planning Committee will review the responses and make a recommendation to the board about how Tri-Basin NRD should incorporate what we learn from the survey into our management plans for the Little Blue basin.  Water users still have time to return their surveys. Surveys received by April 30 will be incorporated into a report on the results. For more information, contact Tri-Basin NRD toll-free at 877 995-6688 or