Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Important Elements of Groundwater Management

by Andy Belanger, Southern Nevada Water Authority and Groundwater Foundation Board Member

Sixteen years ago, the Nevada Legislature authorized the creation of a Groundwater Management Program for the Las Vegas Valley.  Even though the vast majority of Southern Nevada residents receive water from the Colorado River, local groundwater still makes up 10% of the municipal water supply.  Groundwater users in the valley recognized that more needed to be done to protect groundwater for future generations. The purpose of the Las Vegas Valley Groundwater Management Program is to protect water quality and stabilize the groundwater level in the aquifer. 

Citizen involvement is key to groundwater protection.  The Advisory Committee for Groundwater Management meets regularly to oversee the program and ensure it is achieving its purpose.  Our program has evolved to meet changing needs because committed groundwater users took the time to share their perspectives.   All well owners pay to participate in the program and have benefitted from it.

From 1997-2012, more than 350 unused wells have been plugged and abandoned , 494 homes and businesses have received financial assistance to connect to a municipal water system, 1.7 million square-feet of turf has been removed by well owners, and more than 17,000 acre-feet of treated Colorado River has been permanently recharged in the Las Vegas Valley to help stabilize the water level.

Our program has benefitted greatly from our involvement with the Groundwater Foundation.  Through participation in the national conference, we have learned from the successes of other Groundwater Guardians throughout the nation and brought back ideas to try at home.  Groundwater protection is a universal responsibility that happens best when people are inspired to do something locally.  The Groundwater Foundation provides the perfect venue to learn from experts and then act to protect this precious resource.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Celebrate Green Sites!

The Groundwater Foundation, along with program sponsor Rain Bird, is excited to announce and launch a campaign to celebrate Groundwater Guardian Green Sites.
The respected Green Site title is awarded to green spaces that implement responsible groundwater-friendly practices as part of their routine site maintenance. Practices such as using native plants in landscaping, tracking water used as part of irrigation, maintaining a setback distance around wells and surface water, and properly managing potential sources of contamination are documented as part of a confidential application process that awards designation as a Green Site.

In celebration of their 80th anniversary and the invention of the impact sprinkler, Rain Bird has joined The Groundwater Foundation in celebrating Green Sites in 2013. As part of this celebration and their sponsorship in 2013, Rain Bird Corporation is giving away $2,000 in product to one of the first 80 new or renewing sites in 2013 to continue groundwater protection efforts at their site. The winner will be announced at The Groundwater Foundation’s 2013 National Conference, to be held October 15-17, 2013 at the Mission Inn Resort in Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida.

The Green Site program encourages good stewards of groundwater by encouraging green sites to use responsible management practices. The public recognition of Green Site designation is a one-of-a-kind display to your community about your green space’s commitment to protecting a precious resource - groundwater. 
Later this summer, in recognition of the 80th anniversary of the impact sprinkler, The Groundwater Foundation and Rain Bird will  be joining our efforts as part of 80 Days of Impact, leading up to the Foundation’s 2013 National Conference. We’ll be spreading the word about the work Green Sites are doing and how they’re making a difference, and working to add new sites to their ranks.

Visit our website to learn more about the benefits of becoming a Green Site, including a chance to win $2,000 of Rain Bird product.

Monday, June 10, 2013


By Steven G. Seglin, Board Member of the Ground Water Foundation

Wide publicity has been given to the lawsuit filed in the United States Supreme Court by State of Kansas against the State of Nebraska, claiming that Nebraska has used more Republican River water than its allotted share under the Republican River Compact. Kansas claims that this overuse is the result of excessive pumping of ground water by irrigators throughout the Republican Basin.

Little publicity however, has been given to the efforts of natural resources districts and irrigators in the Republican River Basin to conserve the very ground water that Kansas claims to be overused. These conservation efforts by NRDs and irrigators emanate from a combination of regulatory policies initiated by the Republican River Basin natural resources districts and best practices initiated by irrigators.

The management of ground water by the Lower Republican Natural Resources District (LRNRD or the District) used for irrigation purposes and the best practices of irrigators in the District, exemplify the efforts made in the Republican River Basin to conserve ground water. The conservation of ground water in the District has in large part been the result of the adoption by LRNRD of a series of 3 Integrated Management Plans (IMPs) over a 10 year period of time.

A summary of the efforts made by the LRNRD and the irrigators within the District to conserve ground water over the last 10 years follows.

The District in December of 2002 established a moratorium on the drilling of new wells and as a result, no new wells have been drilled in the District since that date. In December of 2004, the District established a moratorium on the expansion of irrigated acres and none have been added since that date. In order to be able to better manage ground water irrigation, the District required that all acres that were irrigated with ground water be certified as irrigated acres by the District in 2004. In 2005, the District required that flow meters which measure the total amount of ground water pumped by each well be installed on all irrigation wells.

In 2005, LRNRD began a program to restrict the amount of ground water that irrigators could pump within the District (called allocations). The program started with limiting pumping to 11 inches per acre per year in part of the District and 12 inches in the remainder of the District. After the imposition of these limitations, water withdrawn from wells went from an average of 11.24 inches per acre in 2004, to an average of 7.74 inches per acre in 2005. During the period from 2005 to 2007, ground water pumped from wells was further reduced to an average of 7.16 inches per acre.

In 2008, LRNRD reduced allocations even further to 9 inches per acre per year throughout the entire District. The allocations established in 2008 were extended for a five year period through the irrigation season of 2012. Ground water use by irrigators during this 5 year period was further reduced to an average of 6.33 inches per acre per year.

In 2011, LRNRD continued the 9 inches per acre per year allocation for another 5 years, and further established strict limitations on the management of ground water during conditions of drought. In addition, the District set a goal to reduce overall pumping of ground water throughout the District by 25% from the 1998 to 2002 average.

Since 2003, pumping of ground water in the LRNRD has been reduced by 52%. Many factors have contributed to this reduction including the imposition of allocations, no-till farming practices, more efficient irrigation delivery systems, and the use of soil moisture sensors. Since 2005, the District has temporarily or permanently retired over 17,000 acres of irrigated farm ground resulting in a savings of nearly 13,000 acre feet of water per year.

In 2012, the LRNRD partnered with the Upper and Middle Republican NRDs and the Twin Platte NRD to purchase a 19,500 acre farm (mostly irrigated) in Lincoln County south of North Platte. Approximately 15,000 acres of this farm are located in the Republican River Basin and approximately 4,500 acres are located in the Platte River Basin. The purpose of acquiring this farm in Lincoln County is to augment the flow of water in the Republican River during dry years and augment the flow in the Platte River during certain times to protect endangered species. The four NRDs formed a separate entity called the Nebraska Cooperative Republican Platte Enhancement Project to acquire the farm and to implement the augmentation of river flows in the Republican and Platte Rivers. The plan of implementation includes the retirement of approximately 16,000 acres of irrigated land and constructing a pipeline to both the Republican and Platte Rivers. Having the ability to pump water into the Republican River during dry years will enhance stream flow assisting Nebraska with its compliance obligations under the Republican River Compact. Pumping water during certain times into the Platte River will assist Nebraska in its efforts to comply with the Platte River Implementation and Recovery Program which benefits endangered species.

The purchase of the farm in Lincoln County is being funded by an annual $10 per acre occupation tax levied on all irrigated acres (both from ground water and surface water) in the Republican River Basin and within the boundaries of the Twin Platte Natural Resources District.

The three NRDs in the Republican River Basin along with irrigators throughout the basin have worked hard to conserve ground water as good stewards of the land and to assist the State with meeting its obligations under the Republican River Compact. Sometimes people who live in urban areas forget how important farming is to rural Nebraska and to the overall economy of the State. The efforts to conserve ground water by the Republican River Basin NRDs and irrigators throughout the basin should not go unrecognized.

Most of the statistical information for this blog was taken from a paper prepared by Mike Clements, General Manager of the Lower Republican Natural Resources District. I am also the Attorney for the Lower Republican Natural Resources District.