U.S. Water News Online
LINCOLN, Neb. -- Parts of Nebraska are experiencing
groundwater declines of more than 30 feet largely because of
increased irrigation and the seven-year drought, according to annual
monitoring by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
"We certainly aren't coming to the bottom of the well, so to
speak, but the level of groundwater declines in many parts of
Nebraska are indisputable and could even be viewed as alarming," said
Mark Burbach, assistant geoscientist in UNL's School of Natural
"There are now large areas of southwest Nebraska and Box Butte
County that have experienced groundwater declines of greater than 50
feet since large scale groundwater development began," Burbach said.
While groundwater development for irrigation didn't develop at the
same pace across the state, the beginning of large-scale development
is generally regarded as 1952.
In recording groundwater aquifer level changes over the last six
years, from spring 2000 to spring 2006, large swaths of the state
show groundwater declines ranging from 5 to 10 feet to greater than
Hardest hit are areas relying heavily on irrigated agriculture,
such as Perkins, Chase and Dundy counties in southwest Nebraska and
all along the Platte River valley.
"Areas that experienced groundwater level declines before the
recent drought are some of the most heavily affected areas during the
drought," Burbach said. "Hamilton, York, Polk and Butler counties
show some of the largest declines."
The largest groundwater level declines since the drought began are
in portions of Clay, York, Butler and Dundy counties, where in some
cases the declines have exceeded 30 feet over the past six years,
In the last five years, only a few areas have shown minimal
increases -- notably Valley, Rock and Holt counties.
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