Ground water is a vital natural resource. This resource exists in the saturated zone of sand, gravel, soil, and stone formations underlying the earth’s surface. In the North Platte River Valley aquifers supply the area’s drinking water, as well as providing livestock, industrial and other uses. Groundwater also is used to irrigate agricultural crops, both as a primary source and to supplement surface water, on above ground water sources.
A Unique Water System
The North Platte Natural Resources District is unique among Nebraska’s NRDs because its agriculture has more surface water irrigated acres than ground water irrigated acres. Early settlers in the area recognized the potential agricultural benefits of an inflow of water to supplement annual rainfall. By the early 1900’s the “Sweetwater Project”, later called the “N. P. Project”, constructed a diversion dam and canals delivering “surface water” to nearly 1,000 farmers. By the 1920’s over 2,000 miles of canals and lateral ditches were providing waters’ life giving resource to 220,000 acres. Much of the groundwater resources that are used today stem from annual surface water releases. Groundwater aquifers are recharged from water flowing through canals and laterals and flood irrigation practices.
For more on water history Click Here
Surface Water Canals Affecting Groundwater Levels & North Platte River
Protecting Our Groundwater
State statutes give the North Platte NRD and Nebraska’s other 22 Natural Resource districts the first responsibility for protecting groundwater from over-use. The NRD uses a variety of tools to help with the conservation of ground water. The NRD works with producers to encourage conservation measures, institute regulatory controls to ensure future resources, provide cost-share to improve irrigation practices, and joins with other NRDs, state and federal agencies, and conservation organizations in the promotion of different water saving measures.
The North Platte NRD is responsible for protecting ground water from nonpoint-source pollution, such as the leaching of contaminants from runoff or seepage. To address this, issue the NPNRD has designed a ground water quality management sub-area to prevent and mitigate the contamination of groundwater by nitrates. Licensed groundwater technicians extract water samples from a network of monitoring wells in a designed area and use laboratory results to help establish a profile of ground water quality. This data then helps to inform management decisions within that sub management area. Stakeholders within this designated are may be under stricter rules and regulations to mitigate groundwater quality.
More Water Management: