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 30 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 ppm; now the current average is down to 13.3 ppm.
Changes have been made over the years. Cost-share practices that help producers reduce water and fertilizer applied have been modified to implement new practices. Reporting requirements have also evolved with the reporting form now online to save producers time and taxpayers money. Prior to the online form, CPNRD’s data compliance officer would manually enter up to 7,000 forms annually. Nearly 800 producers participate in the Program and are credited for lowering contamination levels through their management efforts. Another effective learning tool is the 400 demonstration sites located on local producers’ fields. Although average nitrate levels have dropped 5 ppm in 30 years, there are still high nitrate areas throughout the District. The NRD will continue to work with producers to implement best management practices and regulations as needed to reach safe nitrogen levels in our groundwater.
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. In 2017, changes combined and updated the Rules and Regulations for all of the District’s groundwater management programs into the Groundwater Management Plan Rules & Regulations-General Provisions & Procedures for Enforcement. Two major changes included cease & desist enforcement procedures and removal of the 2-in-10 irrigation rule.
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:
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: http://cpnrd.gisworkshop.com 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.
Irrigators within Central Platte NRD’s Phase II & III Nitrogen Management areas are required to submit a crop report online at cpnrd.gisworkshop.com annually by March 31. The March 31 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. The form will need to be updated with 2020 yields for all crops including corn, sorghum, potatoes, beans, alfalfa, small grains and any other commodity crop. When filling out the form, you’ll need the legal description of the well(s) irrigating each crop and the number of acres of each crop.
Water & Soil Tests
Producers planting corn, grain sorghum, or potatoes in 2021 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 2021 irrigation season. Cease and Desist Orders will be mailed to producers who fail to 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.
Cease and Desist Violations 2020 Updates
Richard Urban – Signed a Consent Decree stating he will stay in compliance with the NRDs rules and regulations and will pay CPNRD $2,500 to assist in the costs of the enforcement action and will pay the Polk County District Court $1,000 as well as court costs.
Artie Moeller – Signed a Consent Decree and will pay CPNRD $5,000 to assist in the cost of the enforcement action and will pay the District Court of Merrick County $1,000 as well as court costs.
Bernard Katzberg – Court date has been postponed.
There are two other individuals who have cease and desist orders filed against them. One of them has not violated since he did not irrigate this year. It is questionable whether the other individual irrigated; however, both orders are still in force.
Vogt said with over 850 participants in the Central Platte NRD Water Quality Program, the NRD is very happy with the majority of individuals being in compliance with the rules.
The Program is set up as a long-term solution to monitor and reduce high groundwater nitrate levels within the District and is having a beneficial impact on the nitrate levels in groundwater. Producers have been instrumental in the success of the program by implementing best management practices and newer more efficient technologies. Average nitrate levels throughout the District have been reduced from 19 parts per million (ppm) to 13 ppm since the Program was implemented in 1987.
Three producers who violated cease and desist orders issued in May for the NRD’s Groundwater Quality Management Program will face possible fines to be imposed through the District court process. Court dates have been set for Artie Moller on November 16 in Merrick County, Bernard Katzberg on November 25 in Hall County, and Richard Urban on December 2 in Polk County.
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. cpnrd.gisworkshop.com
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.
In 2016, an agreement with UNL was approved for $80,000 to revisit 27 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 2017 report showed locations of the first 8 core samples collected with a comparison of nitrate profiles to previous time periods, and the estimation of nitrate transport rates at each location. The 27 sites collected between 1990-1996 were digitized and used to compare profiles to determine how fast nitrate is moving and whether changing land use management has resulted in reduced loading of nitrate in the vadose zone. All of the sites are being used for ag production. Eight of the sample results indicate lowering Nitrogen fertilizer applied, reducing irrigation water, and changing land-use practices at the surface may be lowering the nitrate concentrations in the vadose zone. Annual reports are provided by UNL.