Water

Monitoring Programs

Nebraska possesses some of the greatest water resources in the nation. To preserve the district’s water resources, the Upper Elkhorn Natural Resources District has monitored groundwater levels or static water levels since 1975. The static water level is the distance from the surface of the ground to the water level in a well. The UENRD measures the static water level in approximately 380 wells annually to keep track of water quantity across the district. This allows the district to document the groundwater level measurements over time and better understand how long-term groundwater levels change over time. With this data, the NRDs can develop Rules and Regulations to protect the water resources for the future.

The Upper Elkhorn NRD also has an extensive water quality monitoring network throughout the district. The NRD samples approximately 600 irrigation wells annually for nitrate-nitrogen and, 58 dedicated monitoring wells for nitrate-nitrogen and certain pesticides. Samples taken from the irrigation wells are then sent to the laboratory for analysis. The nitrate-nitrogen results are then reported to the cooperators so they can credit the nitrate-nitrogen in the irrigation water back to the crop. Crediting the nitrogen back to the crop will help reduce the potential for groundwater contamination. Monitoring water quality allows the NRD to document any areas with nitrate-nitrogen levels above the federal health standard and work on ways to decrease these levels through best management practices. The NRD has developed Rules and Regulations to address the districts water quality issues to protect the water resources for the future.

Flow meters provide a means to determine the flow rate and flow volume of irrigation systems. Many producers do not have flow meters, so they must rely on original well registration information. Over time, flow rates can change due to many factors including water table fluctuations and normal wear and tear of equipment. As a result, flow rates listed on an original well registration may not be accurate. Thus, it is beneficial to monitor flow rates throughout the irrigation season to ensure that the proper amount of irrigation water is being applied. A portable ultrasonic flow meter is a useful educational and management tool. The data it provides can help producers to increase irrigation application efficiency and reduce groundwater contamination. It also provides up-to-date information about changes in flow rates. This may give indications of whether or not a pump is operating efficiently. The Upper Elkhorn NRD has an ultrasonic flow meter available to assist irrigators in irrigation management. If requested, an Upper Elkhorn NRD staff member can bring out the ultrasonic flow meter to measure the flow of an irrigation well to help cooperators better schedule their water application.

Groundwater Management

The Upper Elkhorn NRD maintains a Groundwater Management Plan to monitor all aspects of groundwater within the district. The Upper Elkhorn Natural Resources District has designated ground water quality areas throughout the district to preserve, maintain and enhance groundwater quality.

Running faucet

Groundwater Irrigated Acres Certification

The Upper Elkhorn NRD has begun Groundwater Irrigated Acre Certification.  Acre certification is based off of 2010 County Assessor data.  Landowners who paid irrigated tax during 2010 will receive a certification letter for each parcel listed as irrigated.  Once the landowner receives their letter they will need to compile documentation showing the amount of irrigated acres for that legal.  Documentation should either be in the form of a FSA form 578 or county assessor tax records.

Due to the three different designated areas within the Upper Elkhorn NRD, landowners will be instructed in their certification letter as to which years their documentation should include.  Landowners with ground water irrigated acres that have been irrigated at least once within the Lower Niobrara River Basin fully appropriated designation during the calendar years of 2003 through October 16, 2007; the Lower Platte River Basin designation between the calendar years of 2004 and December 16, 2008; and, the previously undesignated area of Holt and Northern Antelope Counties between the years of 2008 through October 1, 2012 will be certified at 100% with proper documentation.

Historically groundwater irrigated acres currently enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, Environmental Quality Incentive Program or other federal, state or local conservation program or irrigated prior to the basin designations must also be certified if there is any possibility of future irrigation. Acres that were historically irrigated in the Lower Niobrara River Basin prior to 2003, Lower Platte River Basin prior to 2004 and previously undesignated area of Holt and Northern Antelope Counties prior to 2008 and have proper documentation may receive 95% certification for the total amount of irrigated acres, should the landowner decide to reactivate a field for irrigation purposes.  Any irrigated acres that are not certified prior to the certification deadline will not be allowed to have groundwater applied to them for any purpose.

Groundwater Irrigated Acres Transfers

The Upper Elkhorn NRD does allow the transfer of certified groundwater irrigated acres.  There are specific guidelines for the transfer of groundwater irrigated acres regarding the Hydrologic Unit Code (HUC) and Stream Depletion Factor (SDF).

Creek in Nebraska

Water Well Decommissioning Program

An abandoned well is any well that has served its usefulness and is no longer needed. These wells have been ignored and even forgotten and can become a huge issue. Abandoned wells, when not properly sealed, are a direct link for contamination to reach our groundwater. Thousands of wells have been abandoned over the years. Not only does an abandoned well pose a threat to groundwater but they also pose a safety hazard for humans and animals.

Irrigation wells and some hand dug wells, have a sufficient diameter that a small child or animal could fall into the open hole. With the concerns for our groundwater, many state and local agencies are taking an active role in correctly plugging these wells. The Upper Elkhorn Natural Resources District is no exception and has created a cost share program for the proper plugging of abandoned wells.

The water program provides cost share assistance for the proper plugging of abandoned wells according to Title 178, Chapter 12 of the Department of Health regulations governing water well abandonment standards. The Upper Elkhorn Natural Resources District will pay 75% of approved well-decommissioning costs up to a maximum of $500 for all water wells other than hand dug water wells, which shall be eligible for up to a maximum of $700.

Water Analysis Service

The Upper Elkhorn Natural Resources District can test water from private wells for nitrate-nitrogen content and bacteria. Nitrate sampling is available for $4.00 per sample at the Upper Elkhorn NRD office in O’Neill. The Upper Elkhorn NRD also provides kits available at no charge to send in a sample, which can be tested for various other materials.

Bacteria sampling is available for $12.00 per sample. This test takes 24 hours to complete and can detect coliform to e-Coli. Bacteria samples must be collected in approved containers from the Upper Elkhorn NRD office and delivered within 4 hours of collecting the sample. Bacteria samples will only be taken Monday through Thursday at the Upper Elkhorn NRD office.

Still water

Group Training

Chemigation

Chemigation Training & Certification

Chemigation is the utilization of any chemical, fertilizer or pesticide through an irrigation system. To legally chemigate in Nebraska, an operator must be certified to apply chemicals and acquire a chemigation permit (see form below) from the Upper Elkhorn Natural Resources District. The Chemigation Program and Nebraska’s 23 Natural Resource Districts operate together to guarantee that chemigation applicators and irrigation systems comply with the terms of the Chemigation Act.

The goal of the Nebraska Chemigation Act is to protect the groundwater and surface waters from contamination of fertilizers or pesticides applied through an irrigation system. To accomplish this goal, the Act provided the legal requirements for the future use of chemigation as a means of nutrient or pesticide usage. The chemigation certification program is responsible for training Nebraska producers about the Nebraska Chemigation Act and the rules and regulations as stated by the NDEQ (Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality). Certification candidates are obliged to attend a training program and pass an exam.

The Act allowed the NDEQ to engage with the University of Nebraska – Lincoln to deliver the training program. The UENRD offers a link for this information since the training and certification are administered by the UNL Extension and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality.

Nitrogen Certification Training

Nitrogen Certification Training

The Upper Elkhorn Natural Resources District has monitored groundwater quality in the District since 1974. Since this time, the Natural Resources District has expanded its monitoring program to include approximately 600 irrigation wells. This monitoring program along with additional research programs has identified a widespread nitrate contamination problem in groundwater within the District.

Following the Upper Elkhorn NRD Groundwater Management Plan Rules and Regulations, anyone applying nitrogen fertilizer on an area larger than one acre, and using more than 50 pounds per acre of actual nitrogen on any crop, must be certified by the Upper Elkhorn NRD once every four years.

If you are responsible for any applications of nitrogen fertilizer within the Natural Resources District, either commercially or privately, The certification requirement will include attending an educational class or passing a written take home test established by the District to provide and assure quality groundwater. An online test is also available through the UNL Extension. The online practice is made up of training videos and quizzes. There is a test-out option as well.

  • The online test can be found at http://Campus.Extension.org.
  • Once you have created an account, and you have confirmed your account, follow the remaining steps below:
  • Using the Search Courses function, search “Nebraska.”
  • Scroll down to “Irrigation and Nitrogen Management Program.”
  • Use the enrollment key “UENRD.”
  • Under the left-hand Navigation list, select “Upper Elkhorn Test & Certification” and complete the sections listed. Your results will be reported to us directly.

Upcoming Classes

No upcoming events at this time. Please check back later.

Water Samples Also Required to Complete Nitrogen Certification

Remember the SECOND part of the certification process requires you to complete a nitrate-nitrogen content analysis for all registered irrigation wells every 4th year. The results of this analysis must be submitted to the Upper Elkhorn NRD as a part of your Nitrogen Certification. This analysis provides you, the operator and/or landowner, with knowledge of usable nitrogen already present in the groundwater, which can be used as a nitrogen credit. This can be accomplished by submitting a water sample to the UENRD or the results from a certified laboratory if you have already had analysis conducted.

If you have no irrigation wells (e.g., dryland farmer or consultant), we do not need water samples, but you are still required to recertify. Sampling procedures Once you start irrigating in the summer:

1) Use a clean plastic container for submitting your sample.  Bottles can be obtained from the laboratory, at the UENRD office in  O’Neill, or the NRCS office in Neligh.
2) Clearly mark each bottle with the cooperator’s name and the legal description of the well.
3) Rinse hands and outside of the container with the water that is being sampled.
4) Rinse the inside of the container three times with the water that is being sampled.
5) For an accurate nitrate-nitrogen credit, wells should pump for 30 minutes before sampling.
6) Refrigerate the sample after collection. Samples can be dropped off at the UENRD office in O’Neill or the NRCS office in Neligh.

Pesticide Training

Pesticide Training

The Upper Elkhorn Natural Resources District strives for pesticide safety. Training of pesticide applicators is beneficial to support residents who use certain pesticides or who make specific types of pesticide applications to make sure they have the fundamental knowledge of how to do so safely while protecting our groundwater.

Through the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, they provide educational and training programs that concentrate on one’s health, the environment, economic well-being, and pesticide safety. For a resident of Nebraska to obtain a new commercial or non-commercial pesticide applicator license, a person needs to accomplish the following steps:

  • Pass a General Standards (core) exam (60 multiple questions, 70% passing).
  • Pass at least one category exam, tied to the sites or pests you will be controlling.
  • Complete a license request form.
  • Pay the appropriate license fee ($90 for a commercial license).

Pesticide Applicator Training and Certification Information can be obtained at the following location: http://www.NDA.Nebraska.Gov/pesticide/applicator_testing.html.

  • Chemigation
  • Nitrogen Certification Training
  • Pesticide Training

Chemigation Training & Certification

Chemigation is the utilization of any chemical, fertilizer or pesticide through an irrigation system. To legally chemigate in Nebraska, an operator must be certified to apply chemicals and acquire a chemigation permit (see form below) from the Upper Elkhorn Natural Resources District. The Chemigation Program and Nebraska’s 23 Natural Resource Districts operate together to guarantee that chemigation applicators and irrigation systems comply with the terms of the Chemigation Act.

The goal of the Nebraska Chemigation Act is to protect the groundwater and surface waters from contamination of fertilizers or pesticides applied through an irrigation system. To accomplish this goal, the Act provided the legal requirements for the future use of chemigation as a means of nutrient or pesticide usage. The chemigation certification program is responsible for training Nebraska producers about the Nebraska Chemigation Act and the rules and regulations as stated by the NDEQ (Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality). Certification candidates are obliged to attend a training program and pass an exam.

The Act allowed the NDEQ to engage with the University of Nebraska – Lincoln to deliver the training program. The UENRD offers a link for this information since the training and certification are administered by the UNL Extension and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality.