Upper Big Blue NRD Calls For Well Flow Meters And Per-Acre Pumping Restrictions

Nebraska's most intensively irrigated natural resources district will hold public hearing Nov. 5 in York.

Published on: Oct 10, 2013

As a result of recent groundwater level declines, the Upper Big Blue NRD is proposing new rules for its irrigators. One proposal requires all wells with a pumping capacity greater than 50 gallons per minute to be equipped with a flow meter. The other proposal would, for the first time, set pumping allocations in the district.

A public hearing will be held Nov. 5 at 2 p.m. at the York City Auditorium to take testimony on the proposals. An informational meeting, beginning at 1:30 p.m., will precede the hearing.

John Turnbull, Upper Big Blue NRD general manager, says the proposals are being made to the NRD's District Rule 5 governing "Ground Water Management Area Rules and Regulations."

Upper Big Blue NRD Calls For Well Flow Meters And Per-Acre Pumping Restrictions
Upper Big Blue NRD Calls For Well Flow Meters And Per-Acre Pumping Restrictions

Rule 5 currently requires all wells constructed after March 1, 2004 with a pumping capacity greater than 50 gpm to be equipped with a flow meter. The proposed changes require all wells to have a flow meter installed. The deadline for flow meter installation would be Jan. 1, 2015.

Under the groundwater pumping proposal, the NRD board calls for the first allocation period at 60 months, or 5 years, according to Turnbull. The first groundwater allocation for irrigators will be 45 inches per certified irrigated acre for that 5-year allocation period. The allocation for municipal users will be 45 inches per acre for one-third of the land in the corporate limits, plus 250 gallons per person per day. 

Groundwater used for fire protection, water system and sewer system maintenance is exempt in order to protect public health and safety, Turnbull says.

"Other users" will receive an allocation equal to 100% of the average annual withdrawal based on the 3 years prior to the start of allocation.  Other users include groundwater uses such as manufacturing, confined animal feeding and lake filling for recreation. If the groundwater user does not use all of his or her allocation, up to 10% of the total allocation would carry over to the next groundwater use period.

The proposals also allow the combining of "certified groundwater use acres" into units, Turnbull says.  "A unit of groundwater use acres consists of acres in the same government survey section or irrigated by the same well that are under the control of one groundwater user," he says. "The owner of the land is the groundwater user unless the land is included in a pooling agreement."

The term 'pooling' refers to the combining of certified groundwater use acres (irrigated acres) for the purpose of determining what lands will be assigned an allocation. 

Language has been included in the proposed changes to allow for the cancellation of a groundwater transfer if the groundwater user does not comply with the transfer regulations or conditions placed on the authorization at the time it was issued.

Written comments will be accepted following the public hearing until Nov. 12 at 5 p.m.

A copy of the proposed changes is available upon request at the NRD office at 105 N. Lincoln Avenue in York and on the NRD website at: www.upperbigblue.org

For more information, call 402-362-6601.