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CPNRD works with farmers to protect water quality and quantity

The Central Platte NRD is collaborating with UNL on a project to use sensors, to help farmers decide when to fertilize (NTV News)

Water may be our most precious resource in Nebraska, and regulators work hard to get farmers to buy-in, to protect both quality and quantity.

Arnie Hinkson is among those who learned to think again about conventional wisdom, working with the Central Platte Natural Resources District on fertilizer use.

“We got to this nitrate problem because a long time ago our elders bought this nitrogen because it was cheaper then, so if some was good, more was better. That’s not the case anymore,” he said.

Several areas of the Central Platte NRD have rules and regulations, because of high nitrate levels.

General Manager Lyndon Vogt said, “We're slowly seeing our nitrate levels decline in the district. I think our map shows over the last 2 or 3 years we've been stable, but we've gone down.”

From 19.5 parts per million, down to 15.5 according to Voght.

The NRD enforces rules, including when farmers can fertilizer and on what types of soil.

They’re also doing research on the farm.

Vogt said, “Looking at options or new technologies or how we can use new technology to improve efficiency of our nutrients, our nitrates.”

Arnie Hinkson has been part of that, using sensors to help him decide when to fertilize. He also fertilizes through his center pivot, and he once thought regulations on fertigation were a burden, but says it’s proven to be worth the hassle.

He said, “It's a spoon feeding process, and you don't have that big surge of application when you do with any kind of equipment running through the field.”

Another major concern for the CPNRD is making sure there’s enough water, and that’s why they have an integrated management plan.

Vogt said, “A large part of our district is fully and over appropriated and in that area we know by managing our groundwater it affects surface water flows on the Platte and vice versa.”

And those decisions made by an elected board, many of them farmers.

“Local regulation is better,” Hinkson said, saying he’d rather have central Nebraska farmers make the rules than state or federal government.

The CPNRD had a water projects meeting this week in Grand Island. They presented an overview of several projects.

One major construction project affects homeowners, bringing flood control to northwest Grand Island. The CPNRD staff said it should wrap up this year, with flood maps redrawn next year taking thousands of properties out of the flood plain.

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