Central Platte NRD to Host Water Programs Update
The Central Platte Natural Resources District is hosting its annual Water Program Update on groundwater levels, nitrate levels, and current research studies. UNL guest speaker Al Dutcher will discuss weather challenges that lie ahead for 2020. Chuck Burr and Tim Schmeeckle will present successes with the TAPS program for efficient crop management.
The Update will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, February 12, 2020, at the Dawson County Extension in Lexington, Nebraska. There is no cost to attend and a free catered lunch will be provided.
9:30 Static Groundwater Levels in CPNRD- Luke Zakrzewski, GIS Image Analyst
10:00 2nd Generation Integrated Management Plan & Research Studies- Brandi Flyr, Hydrologist PhD
11:00 Platte River Recovery Program- Mark Czaplewski, Biologist
11:15 Central Nebraska Irrigation Project- Courtney Widup, Water Resources Technician
12:00 Catered lunch (RSVP by February 5th for lunch count)
12:45 Quality Management Program Overview- Tricia Dudley, Water Quality Programs Assistant
1:00 Chemigation Program Requirements- David Carr, Range Management Specialist
1:15 Vadose Zone Nitrate Study- Dan Clement, Water Resources Specialist
2:00 TAPS Program- Chuck Burr, UNL and Tim Schmeeckle, Gothenburg/TAPS Producers
2:45 Weather Challenges That Lie Ahead for 2020- Al Dutcher, UNL
Attendance at these meetings replaces the requirement to take the Nitrogen Management Certification Test for Central Platte NRD’s Groundwater Quality Management Program. Professional Continuing Education Credits have been applied for through the Nebraska Health & Human Services.
To assure an accurate lunch count, RSVP by calling the Central Platte NRD at (308) 385-6282 or email Marcia Lee at email@example.com.
REMINDERS for Phases II/III
Reports in Violation Of the 58 cease & desist orders issued to producers in December 2019 for failure to submit crop report forms for the CPNRD’s Nitrogen Management Program, 19 are still out of compliance. If those producers irrigate, they will be in violation of the Cease & Desist Order. If the order is violated, the landowner/producer’s violation will be turned over to the District’s legal counsel for further action. The 19 producers out of compliance represent about two percent of the 900 producers in the program. Potential penalties for violation: possibility of a $1,000 -$5,000 fine per violation and/or a loss of irrigated acres, ineligibility for NRD cost-share, and restriction from transferring any irrigated acres. Violators may request a hearing in front of the Board within ten (10) days of receiving the certified Cease and Desist notification.
Water & Soil Tests If you are planting corn, grain sorghum, or potatoes in 2019, you must take a deep soil sample and groundwater sample for nitrogen (NO3-N) this year. These tests are required for producers in Phases II/III. Bordering NRDs may not have this requirement. If your system is no longer running, you need to turn it on and take a water sample to submit with your 2020 Crop Report due March 31, 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. cpnrd.gisworkshop.com
Nitrogen Certification N certification is valid for 4 years. Producers with certification expiring on January 1, 2019, 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 Water Programs Update on February 12, 2020 at the Dawson County Extension Building will not need to complete the test.
MANAGING GROUNDWATER QUALITY FOR 30 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 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.
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: 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.
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.