Groundwater Quality

Managing Groundwater Quality for 34 Years

In 1987, Central Platte NRD’s Groundwater Quality Management Program was the first in the Central Platte Valley to address widespread high groundwater nitrate problems. Over the last 34 years, nitrate levels in the groundwater and vadose zones have been reduced using a long-term, common sense management approach. Until the Program was adopted, nitrate levels in some areas had increased to 19 parts per million. The current average is down to 13.3 ppm, however, there are high nitrate areas in the District that require monitoring.

The NRD works with producers to implement best management practices and regulations as needed to reach safe nitrogen levels in our groundwater. The Program utilizes cost-share payments to implement practices that reduce water and fertilizer applied. The annual reporting form is online to save producers time and provide a history of their fields. Another effective tool is the 400 demonstration sites located on local producers’ fields.

In 2016, parts of southern Hall and northern Hamilton counties, south of the Platte River, were transferred from Phase I to Phase II Groundwater Management Area due to increasing nitrate levels. Olsson Engineering is currently rewriting CPNRD's Groundwater Management Plan.

NEW! Click anywhere in the U.S. and follow where a water drop travels to the ocean.
This new tool was designed for water science communication based on USGS data. USGS River Runner:

Management Plan

Phase I     Areas with average nitrates are 0 to 7.5 ppm
Phase II    Areas with average nitrate concentration of 7.6 to 15 ppm
Phase III   Areas with an average nitrate concentration of 15.1 ppm and higher.
Phase IV   Area where nitrate levels are not declining at an acceptable rate.

Because the phases are by area, individual wells in a Phase Area may be higher or lower than the designated range of nitrate concentrations. Other factors, including proximity to a municipal water supply and vadose zone nitrates, are also used in determining Phase Areas.


MAPS of each Phase Area:  Click “Yes” on the Disclaimer. Locate “Layers” at the top right of the page and select which map you’d like. To print maps, locate “Tools” on the top left and click the print icon.

Nitrogen Management Program reports are due March 31st for all crops (including alfalfa or any other commodity crop) in the Phase II and Phase III Nitrogen Management areas.   All reports are required to be entered on the District’s online crop reporting form. The March deadline was set to allow producers to utilize UNL’s nitrogen recommendation for the upcoming irrigation season; which produces a recommendation for each field as users enter their data.  Web site address:

This a two-page report.  Both pages need to be completed before submitting the report.  You'll need the following information:
-Legal description of the well(s) irrigating each crop and the number of acres of each crop
-Your user name and password  (Some crop consultants/fertilizer dealers complete forms for their customers.  You'll need to provide
them with your username and password.)
-Page 1: Crop(s) grown in 2021, actual yield, fertilizer applied and water usage
**Note:  If a field was prevent plant, state that in the comments
-Page 2: Crop(s) to be grown in 2022, expected yield, irrigation information, soil/water test results and legume or manure/sludge credits

Water & Soil Tests
Producers planting corn, grain sorghum, or potatoes in 2022 are required to take deep soil and groundwater samples for Nitrogen to include with the annual report. The form will ask the expected yields and credits for past legume crop and manure or sludge. UNL’s recommended nitrogen application rate will appear as the data is entered.

Water Samples: The groundwater analysis for nitrogen content should be taken on each field. Water sample bottles are provided by your agronomist, crop consultant, or lab.

Soil Samples: The deep soils analysis for residual nitrogen (NO3-N) must be taken on each field or 80-acre tract. The composite sample tested must consist of a mixture from no less than one three-foot probe every five acres. The report from the lab must be attached to the annual report.

Non-Compliance: Violations will be enforced prior to the 2022 irrigation season. Cease and Desist Orders will be mailed to producers who fail to complete and submit forms by the March 31st deadline. Potential penalties for violation are the possibility of a fine ranging from $1,000 – $5,000 per violation and/or loss of irrigated acres, ineligibility for NRD cost-share, and restriction from transferring irrigated acres.

Labs for Water & Soil Testing

  • Ward Laboratories – Kearney (4007 Cherry Ave) (800) 887-7645
  • Platte Valley Laboratories – Gibbon (1002 Hwy 30) (308) 468-5975
  • ServiTech Laboratories – Hastings (1602 Park W Drive) (402) 463-3522 – Drop off locations (call before dropping off)
  • Columbus: 2066 14th Ave – Pick up – 8:00 am on Thursdays, starting when needed
  • York: 3D Supply, 3605 N. Delaware Pick up – 9:00 am on Wednesdays year-round, Fridays in the fall
  • Kearney: 714 3rd Ave Pick up – Tuesdays, 8:30 am
  • Grand Island: 3721 W. Nebraska Highway 2 Pick up – Daily, Monday – Friday, 9:00 am

For more information about the crop reporting form or the Groundwater Quality Program, contact Tricia Dudley 308-385-6282 or

Nebraska Groundwater Quality Clearinghouse
The Nebraska Department of Environment & Energy recently launched the Groundwater Quality Clearinghouse website with over 1.6 million sample results from 33,000 irrigation well locations taken by the NRDs. Key features of the map are well locations, nitrate measurements, along with 281 minerals and chemicals whose well compositions were analyzed. The map also showcases aquifer locations, topographic regions and bedrock geology. The site has practical uses for the public. Farmers can check the composition of existing groundwater for chemical content to see how much fertilizer they will need, and gauge which locations have land suitable for raising livestock.
Visit the website at

2021 Violation Report

As of July 22, 2021, six landowners remained in violation of the cease and desist orders filed. Those landowners include Michael Kelliher, Kearney; Kurt Kuhn, Clarks; Mark Lesiak, Clarks; Mike Munsterman, Glenville; William Soll, Columbus; Richard Urban, Silver Creek. Three of the landowners are repeat offenders from 2020.

Crop Reporting Website

The Crop Reporting Website is updated with more user-friendly features! Each page of the form is now auto-saved. UNL’s recommended Nitrogen application rates are visible and adjusted as you fill out the form, so you will see the results of each application. And you’ll receive an email receipt when your form is submitted successfully.

Nitrogen Certification

Nitrogen certification is valid for 4 years. Producers with certification expiring will receive a certification test to be completed and returned to the CPNRD office. Certification from other districts is accepted and producers who attend CPNRD’s annual Water Programs Update are not required to complete the test.  Your Contact Tricia Dudley  (308) 385-6282

Vadose Zone Nitrate Down 10 Percent
In 2016, an agreement with UNL was approved for $80,000 to revisit vadose zone core sites originally collected in the 1990s, and to determine where additional cores may best characterize nitrate storage & estimated transport rates to the water table. Core samples were collected for vadose zone nitrate including some areas previously sampled.

The three-year study of vadose zone nitrate conducted by UNL graduate student Jordan Shields compared 27 locations within the CPNRD on a variety of land uses, topography and soil type with previously cored areas in the 1990’s. The study included nitrate storage under 24 sites including five gravity irrigated sites and 22 center pivot irrigated cropland.

Results showed a 10% reduction of vadose zone nitrate since the 1990’s; however, overall averages show vadose zone nitrate about 30% higher than the average nitrate levels under the gravity irrigated land. Vadose zone nitrate ranged from 71 to 8,860 pounds per acre of nitrate-N district-wide. Using changes in depth of nitrate concentration peaks, the transport rate (rate in which nitrate contamination travels) was determined at 0.9 to 2.5 feet per year.

The study also found several cores with over 2,000 pounds per acre of nitrate-N and significant concentrations of ammonia at depth in many locations. The report recommended further investigation of Phase II areas and in locations with vadose nitrate measuring more than 2,000 pounds per acre.