U.S. Water News Online
SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb. -- Main street businesses that depend on
farm and ranch customers are feeling the effects of Nebraska's
drought right along with their major customers.
Jirdon Agri Chemicals Inc. president Bill Siegel said he expected
sales to decrease as much as 20 percent this year, but then some rain
Now, Siegel said, he expects only a slight decrease in sales from
normal years. One thing in Siegel's favor is his company's
development of a heat and drought stress fertilizer.
``I think we're in a much better position today than last year,''
Despite improved moisture conditions and a somewhat promising
sales outlook for this summer, Siegel said he was not sure what to
expect for the future.
``It's hard to plan,'' he said. ``I feel that we'll probably use
up all the water growing 2003 crops, and we're just going to have to
face 2004 and see what happens to us.''
Much of Nebraska remains locked in drought conditions that date to
1999. Western Nebraska is in severe to moderate drought, while the
central and southeast is abnormally dry.
Dry conditions have helped Western Valley Irrigation in Gering,
which sells center pivot irrigation systems, owner Jerry Sloan said.
Before the drought, growers often cited the desire to cut down on
labor when they bought center pivot systems.
Now, people are interested in the systems' ability to conserve
water, Sloan said.
Government aid also has been offered to people who buy center
pivot systems, Sloan said.
Sales at Western Valley have nearly doubled this year compared to
last, with producers paying between $55,000 and $60,000 for a
160-acre section system.
The drought also has helped business at Nelson Wells, Inc.
That, coupled with the anticipation and passage of a moratorium on
new well drilling in two of the area's natural resource districts,
has actually resulted in booming business for the Alliance company.
``This is the busiest we've ever been in our history, and we're a
37-year-old business,'' president Rick Nelson said.
The company has brought in twice as much money as usual from
customers eager to drill new wells before the three-year moratorium
Though there are still work orders to fill, Nelson said once
irrigation well drilling comes to an end, the company will see a
change in how it does business.
But Nelson said he does not plan on a crisis.
``We've always rolled with the punches,'' Nelson said. ``We've
operated on a different cylinder each year. It just happened to be
irrigation the last few years. We'll make up for it in other ways.''
Cities, too, are affected by the drought.
In Sidney, where water availability and quality has been a
problem, the city is working to build a new $9 million well field and
a pipeline to help get the water to the people who need it.
Last summer, the town was placed under stringent restrictions for
water use, and some businesses temporarily went without water.
After the shortage, people in Sidney are on board with the new
project, City Manager Gary Person said.
In fact, people are so conscientious about saving water that the
city's income is suffering, Person said.
Customers have used 70 million gallons less this year than last.
``When you sell that much less water, it starts to hurt
economically,'' Person said. ``We became our own worst enemy.''
Still, the future of Sidney remains bright, Person said.
``We've got a great plan in place, and we're going to make a lot
of things happen,'' Person said.
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