Airborne Electromagnetic Hydrogeologic Survey or AEM is a rapid and efficient way of remotely sensing geology across an entire area without engaging in extensive drilling. In AEM surveys, a geophysical device, typically bullet or hoop-shape, containing sensors is suspended beneath an aircraft, typically a helicopter to collect geophysical data using electromagnetics. The hydrogeology of the Lower Big Blue NRD is varied across the District’s 1,700 square miles as a result of how geologic material was deposited. The LBBNRD has secured Nebraska Water Sustainability funding to complete this project over roughly 235 square miles in 1 mile grids Mapping of the hydrogeologic framework provides staff and directors the ability to better comprehend and therefore better manage the groundwater resources of the District. Please see the documents below for the project area and public notice. The flights were completed on 6/22/23 with a total of 423 miles flown. Data will become available in the spring of 2024.
Following the annual review of fall groundwater level measurements at its monthly meeting on December 8, 2022, record low static water levels, new irrigation wells being permitted in areas of groundwater level decline and marginal aquifer areas, drought conditions, and the concern for the sustainability of groundwater supplies for domestic, livestock, and crop irrigation uses, the Board of Directors, as provided in Neb. Rev. Stat. § 46-707(2), proactively took action to impose an immediate 180-day moratorium, or stay, on the construction of new wells and increase of irrigated acres in the district. During the moratorium, the LBBNRD contracted engineering firm Olsson Inc. to study the different aquifer formations and establish subareas to provide a more specific approach to managing the variability of the aquifers throughout the district. Olsson also analyzed the criteria of the District’s high capacity well permit ranking calculator to manage development in diverse aquifer formations.
The Lower Big Blue NRD includes portions of Gage, Jefferson, Saline, and Pawnee Counties. In its effort to continue to conserve and protect the groundwater resources the Board of Directors took action to extend the district-wide moratorium on new wells and the expansion of historically irrigated acres. This comes after the NRD received public comment regarding the potential extension during a hearing held in DeWitt on May 18, 2023. The original 180-day moratorium was set to expire on June 6, 2023.
The primary reasons for extending the stay were the annual spring groundwater levels measured in April showing declines over the past 2 to 3 years, the continuing drought conditions, and the need for more time to discuss management options, review rules and regulations, evaluate the geology and aquifer characteristics of the district, and to establish subareas.
During this indefinite extension of the moratorium, NRD staff and directors will continue to work to better understand hydrogeology and evaluate effective, area-specific groundwater management options for the District. The District will also continue to work with producers to certify their current irrigated acres as has been a requirement since 2014. Please contact the NRD office to make sure your irrigated acres are certified and up to date.
Finally, it is the intent of the NRD to emerge from the district-wide moratorium with a comprehensive and diverse structure for managing the use of groundwater across variable aquifer formations and ensure that our most valuable resource is being used efficiently and effectively.
These are just a few reasons to measure the soil moisture in your field during the upcoming growing season. Soil moisture sensors are available for purchase from the NRD. Cost-share is available on those sensors or other forms of soil moisture monitoring equipment. Visit our MOISTURE SENSORS page to learn more about our soil moisture sensor program. The order/cost-share form is available on the website.