Rural Water Projects Take Shape in Nebraska's Lower Elkhorn NRD

Drought and irrigation pumping in 2012 helped trigger interest in rural district in Madison County.

Published on: May 7, 2013

The drought of last summer and continuing quality issues bring the importance of water into focus for many rural Nebraska residents. For the newly proposed Madison County rural water project, the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District is looking at a corridor from Norfolk south to Madison, with branches west of Norfolk to Battle Creek and south of Madison toward Humphrey.

The NRD board of directors was petitioned by more than 100 area residents to begin the process on this new project. "The drought last summer seemed to trip the trigger," says Stan Staab, executive director of the Lower Elkhorn NRD. "People were having problems with water quality and domestic well problems."

STANDING TALL: The Lower Elkhorn NRD dedicated a rural water district, called Wau-Col, last year.
STANDING TALL: The Lower Elkhorn NRD dedicated a rural water district, called Wau-Col, last year.

The first year of the project includes a feasibility study conducted by an engineering firm along with a series of informational meetings. Reports should be completed by the end of 2013, and if the project is deemed feasible, potential customers are identified and engineering can move forward, finalizing water sources, capacity and design and the location of water tanks and towers.

"The project will take about four years to complete," Staab says.

After the studies are completed, customers are signed up, voluntary easements are sought, and final designs and permits are secured, before construction can begin, he says.

A voluntary advisory board made up of customers of the project handles the day-to-day operations of the systems, Staab says. A board was approved in April for the new project. The board sets rates and fees and handles the nuts and bolts of the system, he says. "It is critical to have a strong advisory board."

Lower Elkhorn NRD dedicated the $3.2 million Wau-Col rural water project last summer, after six years of planning and construction. They also developed the Logan East rural water project near Oakland that was eventually expanded through inter-local agreement into the Papio-Missouri NRD, and now encompasses 1,100 customers in Burt, Washington and Dodge counties.

If you'd like to learn more about rural water projects, contact your local NRD office, or call the Lower Elkhorn NRD at 402-371-7313.