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Water table rises in Upper Republican NRD for third year in a row

Thursday, April 12, 2012

IMPERIAL, Nebraska -- For the first time since the Upper Republican Natural Resources District began regulating groundwater use in the late 1970s, the average groundwater level in the district has risen for three years in a row.

The average groundwater level in the district rose about a third of a foot from spring 2011 to spring 2012, marking the third straight year water levels have increased. The average depth to water in the district that includes Perkins, Chase and Dundy counties is now approximately 122 feet. That's nearly a foot higher than it was three years ago.

The last time groundwater levels rose two consecutive years was the early 1990s.

NRD employees Mike Nesbitt, Todd Burrell and John Lemon annually measure groundwater levels at 394 wells across Perkins, Chase and Dundy counties in the fall and the spring.

"A return to more normal and wetter conditions the last few years is certainly to credit for this trend, but so too is the ability, and commitment, among many farmers in our district to apply only the water they need," said Jasper Fanning, general manager of the NRD. "This approach combined with advances in drought-tolerant crops and irrigation efficiency will help preserve water in our district for generations to come."

The largest rise in average groundwater levels from spring 2011 to spring 2012 occurred in Chase County, which saw an average rise of a little more than 1 foot on the 154 wells measured in that county.

Lower-than-normal water use among farmers in 2011 aided the average rise in groundwater levels. Average water use per certified acre in the district in 2011 was 9.8 inches, which is 3.2 inches less than the 13-inch allocation.

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