Healthy Soils Positively Impact Groundwater Quality

Healthy Soils Positively Impact Groundwater Quality


NORFOLK, Nebraska – Soil is one of the most essential natural resources.  It affects every part of our day, from the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe.  Soil health is the capacity of the soil to function as a living ecosystem, nourishing plants and sustaining animals and people.

At their June meeting, the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) Board of Directors learned more about soil nutrients through a presentation from the University of Nebraska’s Dr. Chittaranjan Ray, Professor and Director of the Nebraska Water Center and Michael Kaiser, Assistant Professor of Soil and Water Sciences.  The pair discussed many soil chemistry concepts and answered questions.

Soil becomes healthier when organic matter levels increase (carbon sequestration), water infiltration rates improve (reducing erosion, runoff, and flooding), and the soil biological life is diverse and plentiful.

Soil nutrients exist as positively charged or negatively charged ions when dissolved.  The positively charged ions are known as cations and the negatively charged ions are known as anions.

Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) is a soil chemical property.  It is the ability of the soil to hold or store cations.  When soil particles are negatively charged, they attract and hold on to cations (positively charged ions) like calcium, potassium, and sodium, stopping them from being leached down the soil profile.  On the other hand, negatively charged soil particles repel anions (negatively charged ions).  The implication of this is that negatively charged nutrients such as nitrate, sulphate, and chloride are vulnerable to leaching down the soil profile.

LENRD Assistant Manager, Brian Bruckner, said, “It is often assumed that the CEC value can generally be utilized when considering the timing and amount of nitrogen that can be applied as fertilizer, but as Professor Kaiser illustrated in his presentation, there are a host of variables outside of our control which influence the soil’s ability to retain the nitrogen within the rootzone for later utilization by plant roots.”

In other action, the board rejected all bids for the Willow Creek Dam Pore Pressure Mitigation – Phase 1 Project and authorized the general manager to sign a contract with Dietz Well for completion of 2 test holes and 2 production wells at the Willow Creek Dam, southwest of Pierce, not to exceed $92,240.00.

The board also ratified the LR23 report for the Nebraska Legislature.  The progress report was requested from the LENRD board and was submitted on June 21st.

In other business, the board accepted the proposal from the University of Nebraska to conduct certain research related to the characterization of groundwater nitrate using stable isotope analysis within the district and authorized the general manager to sign the project agreement, not to exceed $17,712.00.

The board also approved the salary adjustments for the cost of living at 5.60% and approved the step and grade changes proposed by management for Fiscal Year 2022.

Anthony Wisnieski of Norfolk was sworn in to fill the vacant seat in Subdistrict 3, due to the retirement of Bob Huntley of Norfolk.  Anthony is originally from Dodge and moved to Norfolk in 1996.  He is part owner of Building Green Structures and is currently on the Energy Panel Structures Dealer Advisory Board.  Anthony’s priorities include providing clean and safe drinking water for future generations.

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 22nd at LENRD office in Norfolk at 7:30 p.m. and on Facebook Live.