Lower Elkhorn NRD Votes to Increase Irrigation Allocations

Lower Elkhorn NRD Votes to Increase Irrigation Allocations


NORFOLK, Nebraska – Last year, in a proactive measure and in response to the acute drought that took a commanding grip in Northeast Nebraska, the LENRD (Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District) implemented restrictions on wells pumping over 50 gallons per minute, until the drought decreases in intensity.

Initially, the Board had voted to limit municipal water supply wells to 250 gallons per day per capita for any city or town in a D3 or D4 designation, while irrigation wells (that do not already have an allocation) would be limited to 15 inches per acre for each certified irrigated acre for any well located in a designated D3 or D4 area.

After hearing from their constituents on the severity of the current situation for many producers with sandy soils, the board discussed the possibility of adjusting the inches previously allocated. At their June meeting, the Board voted to increase the 15 inches per acre limit to 20 inches per acre, for any well located in a designated D3 or D4 area.

Brian Bruckner, Interim General Manager of the LENRD, said, “The decision from the board to impose allocations for this year was to protect the health and welfare of the public during the drought, but also to minimize negative impacts to groundwater supplies. Given the current state of the drought, the board felt it was necessary to increase the inch allocations for any well not already in a designated sub area or not already limited with any other restrictions.”

The state remains in varying degrees of drought, but things have intensified in the northeast. Bruckner added, “Hopefully we can catch some rain in the coming weeks that will provide sufficient improvement and maybe bring some areas out of allocation altogether.”

If drought conditions are downgraded to a D2 designation for a period of 14 consecutive days, the drought-imposed restriction would be lifted for those wells and locations within that D2 designation area. So far, almost 1,400 wells have been removed from the drought-imposed restriction. Even though the latest U.S. Drought Monitor map shows an increase of D3 and D4 designations throughout the district, irrigation wells already removed from the allocation restrictions will not be reimposed. A map showing the 2023 groundwater allocations can be found on our website at

In other action the Board also heard from Janel Kaufman, Senior Civil Engineer with Houston Engineering, who provided a 90% update on the Maple Creek Watershed Plan. The two projects that could result from the completion of the plan are improvements to the Clarkson levee and a small dike or levee system for Nickerson. This project is still in the planning stage of a multi-step process.

Jeremy Milander, UNL Extension Educator, also provided a report on the success of the Bazile Groundwater Management Area (BGMA) Demonstration Sites.  The BGMA received funds from the Nebraska Environmental Trust (NET) to demonstrate and research best management agricultural practices to reduce nitrogen leaching into the groundwater.

To learn more about the 12 responsibilities of Nebraska’s NRDs and how your local district can work with you and your community to protect your natural resources, visit and sign up for our monthly emails. The next board of directors meeting will be Thursday, July 27th, at the LENRD office in Norfolk at 7:30 p.m. and on Facebook Live.