Little Blue NRD Talks with Farmers About Irrigation Changes


The Little Blue Natural Resources District encompasses hundreds of farms and dozens of cities and villages in parts of seven south-central Nebraska counties.

With over 1.5 million acres under their care, officials say they're taking steps to make sure their water is being used efficiently.

General Manager Mike Onnen says the Little Blue's board is proposing changes for irrigators. Those rule changes include putting meters on wells and reporting water use every year.

"We don't have a good handle on how much water is being consumed, we don't know exactly where our water balance is," says Onnen. "We know about how much we get in recharge, but unless you have a good handle on how much is actually being applied, it's kind of difficult to know if you're in balance or not."

At a public hearing in Davenport on Thursday, NRD officials showed about 60 people in attendance maps of areas where they want to enforce what's called a permanent stay – a stop to expansion of irrigated acres and the digging of new wells unless certain requirements are met.

"We're proposing to include a permanent stay in a portion of our district where we've got some very high risk areas," says Onnen.

But some farmers questioned if those changes will be enough to prevent future groundwater depletion or other problems.

"It's one area of the district that we seem to be extremely concerned about and there is evidence within the whole district of the same problems," said Robert Duensing of Deschler.

"I think we have been behind in doing a lot of things that we should have done. We're trying to catch up, and I think that just by pinpointing one area would not do us much good," added Gregg Wiedel of Hebron.

Others say that because the 100 mile long NRD has varying soil types and aquifer depths, targeting known problem areas makes more sense than a district-wide stay.

"It's very difficult for what we do [in one part of the district] to be much of an effect on what you do [in another]," said Russ Ochsner of Roseland.

Onnen says being efficient with water and fertilizer is their greatest concern, and believes these changes can help them budget water fairly for everyone.

"The whole goal of our rules and regulations is really to encourage farmers to become more efficient in their applications of water and give us a better handle on what's being used," said Onnen.

The Little Blue NRD board won't make a final decision until at least their April meeting. Anyone can still send written comments on these changes until March 31 to the Little Blue NRD office at P.O. Box 100, Davenport, NE 68335.

Click HERE to visit the Little Blue website for more information about the proposed changes.