June 25, 2024

The region has been experiencing above-average rainfall over the last couple of months, and the irrigation pumping season may be shorter than in previous years. If things do become dry, it could lead to heavier irrigation use, which puts increased pressure on the district's groundwater resources and potentially results in decreased groundwater recharge. It is important to keep in mind how pumping may affect other groundwater users. Conservation of water resources should be a high priority for all in all years.

Most groundwater level readings recorded in the Lewis and Clark Natural Resources District have shown a decreasing trend during the last two years. With decreasing water levels, water well usage conflicts and water quantity concerns could be more prevalent. Increased irrigation pumping during dry stretches typically results in reports and concerns of domestic wells not having sufficient water during the pumping season and irrigation wells experiencing reduced pumping volumes, pumping air, or running out of water. In some situations, well issues can be attributed to the age and/or construction of the well and can be remediated by lowering pumps. In extreme situations, new wells have been constructed if the previous well depth didn’t allow for pump lowering. With recent rainfalls, it is anticipated that groundwater levels will show slight increases by next spring, although the levels do vary widely.

Although the NRDs are here to help landowners with information, state law does not provide any entity with the immediate authority to resolve individual well conflicts. In Nebraska, water use priority is designated for domestic uses by law. That doesn’t mean if your well runs dry you have the right to prevent the use of high capacity wells in your area that may or may not be impacting your well. Landowners can pursue remediation through the legal system which generally requires a lawsuit between landowners and can take a long time to resolve. This process works to resolve water use conflicts and legal fees are the responsibility of the well owners.

LCNRD stresses the importance of communicating with neighbors who will be using high-capacity wells and discussing potential solutions if problems should arise rather than waiting until a problem occurs.  Well owners are also encouraged to contact a water well contractor to determine whether domestic wells are operating as efficiently as possible or whether lowering the pump or constructing a deeper well may be necessary.

The University of Nebraska – Lincoln Extension has a series of NebGuides available to help rural families understand and manage private drinking water systems at or by calling the LCNRD at 402-254-6758. The guides available include the following:  Private Drinking Water Wells, Planning for Water Use, Water Sources, The Water Well, The Distribution System, Operation and Maintenance for Mechanical Components, and Operation and Maintenance for a Safe Well.


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