Dry Conditions Lead to Moratorium on New Wells in Lower Big Blue NRD District
Due to concerns about the sustainability of groundwater supplies in the area, the Lower Big Blue NRD (Natural Resources District) Board of Directors has imposed an immediate 180-day moratorium, or stay, on the construction of new wells and the increase of irrigated acres in the district.
The results of the fall static water level readings show groundwater declines were seen through the district. A number of wells showed levels at or below the last major drought in 2012. A total of 45 wells recorded their lowest levels since the district has been measuring them.
The primary purpose for the moratorium is to provide for the Lower Big Blue NRD an opportunity to evaluate management options in areas that are experiencing static water level declines attributed to dry weather conditions and the increase in irrigated acres in the areas.
The 180-day stay will not impact permits that were issued prior to the implementation of the stay and which have not expired.
According to a statement from the Lower Big Blue NRD, “Under the authority of Nebraska Revised Statute § 46-707(2) and in accordance with LBBNRD Board action taken at the monthly meeting on December 8, 2022 at 8:30 a.m., the District is under a temporary stay in regards to drilling any new water wells or any increase in the number of acres historically irrigated. During the 180-day stay, the district may hold a public hearing to determine whether or not the stay will become permanent. Details on any public hearings are forthcoming and will be published upon availability. Also during the 180-day stay, the district may revise its rules and regulations and hold a public hearing on those revisions should they be made.”
Exceptions to the stay include test holes, dewatering wells with an intended use of one year or less, monitoring wells, EPA (Environment Protection Agency) remediation wells, water wells for range livestock, replacement wells and water wells of public water suppliers.
FJN reached out to Scott Nelson, General manager of the Little Blue NRD, to ask if his district might soon be facing a similar situation. Nelson responded, “Our water levels are well above our trigger levels at this time. If drought conditions continue, we might need to follow suit in two to three years, but for now we’re fine.”