A study of groundwater levels in Nebraska discloses a drastic drop, unprecedented since the study has been taken.
The 2013 Nebraska Statewide Groundwater-Level Monitoring Report reveals that between spring of 2012 and spring of 2013, every county in the state experienced a water-level drop of at least a foot, except for three. Some parts of Nebraska saw a drop of nearly 25-feet.
On average, groundwater levels in Nebraska dropped slightly more than two-and-a-half feet.
The severe drought of 2012 forced farmers to rely more heavily on irrigation. A whole lot of water was drawn out of the ground. Very little has been replaced since rain hasn’t been adequate to recharge groundwater supplies.
Senator Tom Carlson of Holdrege says he hasn’t had time to closely study the results, but they concern him.
Carlson sponsored the legislation which created the Water Sustainability Task Force. It recommends the state spend $50 million annually on water projects, up to $1 billion total, to maintain water resources.
Carlson says the study bolsters the arguments made by the task force.
“And it also becomes a test of what’s our will? Do we have enough will that we’re willing to put forth the money that it’s going to take to get us to a point that we are water sustainable?” Carlson asks in an interview with Nebraska Radio Network. “We need to do that and when we do that all of Nebraska is going to be in a much, much better position, because we’ve then guaranteed we have adequate water for future generations.”
Carlson acknowledges trying to convince the legislature to spend money on water projects remains a tough sale.
“Well, it’s challenging and I think people have to really understand the significance of what we’re talking about here and once they do, I believe that most will determine that it is important and we’d better do something and so that’s the challenge,” according to Carlson.
The report states that every county in Nebraska experienced a drop in groundwater levels between 2012 and 2013, except for some portions of the Sand Hills in Grant, Hooker and Thomas Counties.
Groundwater-level monitoring began in Nebraska in 1930. The annual reports and maps have been produced by the Conservation and Survey Division in the School of Natural Resources at UNL since the 1950s.
For a PDF version of the report, click here.