Groundwater Quality Management Program

Groundwater Quality Management Program

Groundwater Management Rules & Regulations  | Phase Controls-Chart

 Online Reporting Form  | Reporting Instructions
Due March 31st       

Irrigation/N Management Program  Certification Booklet | Test


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 AvePick 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


Requirements for Phase II & III Producers

Irrigators within Central Platte NRD’s Phase II & III Nitrogen Management areas are required to submit a crop report online at 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.

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


2020 Violation Report  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.

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.


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.

Additional Testing  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.

Phase I is generally the portion of the District in which the average nitrates are from 0 to 7.5 ppm
Phase II is generally those areas that have an average nitrate concentration of 7.6 to 15 ppm
Phase III is generally those 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 the 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.














BUFFER STRIPS – Helping the Land and Water

Rolling hills and shallow drainages are common in central Nebraska.  Along with the beautiful rolling hills of Nebraska farmland come some not so beautiful problems: runoff and soil erosion.  The runoff water that goes through gullies and into streams or ditches can carry excess pollutants and sediment into streams and rivers.  This impacts the quality, and quantity of water.

Buffer strips are a valuable tool in land stewardship.  A Buffer strip is a strip of native vegetation that have been planted and established along drainages.  These strips offer many real advantages including:

  • Increased water quality through filtration.
  • Increased water quantity through slowed and captured runoff, and snow melt.
  • Enhanced wildlife habitat.
  • Decreased erosion, and field work.

Figure 1: Buffer strip along a field, photo credit:

By planting native tall grasses in low areas next to streams and drainages, runoff is slowed and water is captured and cleaned.  And since these areas are often challenging to farm, and lower in productivity, farms can save time and expense as well.

The Central Platte NRD has a Buffer Strip cost share program.  This is a land rental program and does not include installation cost share dollars. Contracts are 5 to 10 years in length.

  • For irrigated cropland where CRP, CREP, or other governmentally-funded programs are also used, rental rates are $250 per acre minus payments from the other programs.
  • For irrigated cropland where CRP, CREP, or other governmentally-funded programs are not used, the rental rate is $225 per acre minus any other program payments.
  • For non-irrigated cropland enrolled in CRP, CREP or other governmentally-funded programs, the rental rate is equal to 20% of the average CRP soil rental rate.
  • For non-irrigated cropland without CRP, CREP, or other governmentally funded programs, the rental rate per acre is equal to 120% of the average CRP soil rental rate plus $5 per acre, minus the payment rate from any other programs.
  • In no case may payments from all programs exceed $250 per acre.

For more information contact your local NRCS office to begin the sign up Kelly Cole, CPNRD Cost Share Programs Coordinator: (308) 385-6282 or


Map: Regulations in each NRD  |    Summary :23 NRDs Management Programs

Erosion & Sediment Control Plan   |   NE Vadose Zone Interactive Map

Irrigation Water Quality—A Contemporary Water Quality Perspective  by Arindam Malakar, UNL,; Daniel D. Snow, UNL,; Chittaranjan Ray, UNL,

How CPNRD’s Groundwater Quality Program was Developed

Until the Central Platte NRD’s Groundwater Quality Management Program was adopted, the nitrate level in the high Nitrate area of the District had increased at a rate of about 0.5 ppm/year to 19.24 ppm. At the end of the first crop year under the program, the level dropped by 0.3 ppm and continued to drop through the 1993 crop year. Adverse weather conditions resulted in increases during the 1994 and 1995 crop years, but, a lowering of the nitrate rate occurred again after the 1996 and 1997 crop years.

In 1999, nitrate levels in the NRD’s high-nitrate area dropped from 17.41 ppm from spring 1998 to 16.62 ppm spring 1999. The drop is credited to landowners in the District using better management practices recommended by the NRD and the University of Nebraska- Lincoln. Farmers from throughout the District, with varying soils and conditions, were recruited to work with the NRD in using the best management practices to demonstrate that nitrates can be managed efficiently and effectively while maintaining crop yields. In addition, many of the tools needed by the farmers to establish best management practices, including fertilizer calibration meters, irrigation well hour meters, surge valves, vertical dam manifolds, irrigation flow meters, and reuse pits, were encouraged through the availability of cost-sharing by the District.  Research indicated that most farmers did not know how much water they were using during irrigation, so the Board decided to make mandatory the practice of monitoring well outputs in Phases II/III. A well-measuring program was adopted, and later revised, that could determine how much water is being used. Wells in Phase III must be measured by the NRD by 1998 and in Phase II by 2000.

To facilitate increased water management, the District developed its Splash program to provide one-on-one education for the producer who voluntarily participated. The producer received weekly irrigation assistance on one field and a complete evaluation of his or her irrigation system. In return, the producer is expected to share the experience with other producers and consider improved irrigation techniques. To supplement these education and cost-share funding portions of the program, the NRD adopted rules and regulations to assure that certain minimum changes would occur.