The Bazile Groundwater Management Area (BGMA)
The Bazile Groundwater Management Area (BGMA) is comprised of four NRDs including the Lewis & Clark NRD, Lower Elkhorn NRD, Lower Niobrara NRD, and the Upper Elkhorn NRD. Within these four NRDs, the BGMA includes parts of three counties: Antelope, Knox and Pierce and the towns of Brunswick, Creighton, Orchard, Osmond, Plainview, Royal, Wausa, and Winnetoon. The BGMA was started by local producers and the NRDs to address rising nitrate levels in area communities and domestic wells. Currently, Creighton, Orchard, and Osmond are under administrative orders for high nitrate concentrations in public drinking water.
To address these issues, the NRDs along with local stakeholders from the BGMA, the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Nebraska Environmental Trust and additional agencies have worked together to create a master plan for the BGMA.
The Bazile Creek watershed has been listed as an impaired watershed due to high levels of nitrate in the groundwater and has qualified for special National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI) funding through NRCS. Through this NRCS program, producers can obtain funding for numerous BMPs such as cover crops, filter strips, and irrigation system updates. Additional cost share programs may be available for each NRD or as part of the BGMA. Contact BGMA Project Coordinator Phil Steinkamp for rules & regulations and cost share programs.
BGMA Survey Results
This past spring the Bazile Groundwater Management Area (BGMA) Project conducted a short survey to better understand the perspectives and current practices of those living and/or working within the BGMA.
A summary of the results from the survey can be found below. A full draft report of the survey results is also available. The information gathered helps the BGMA Project Group better understand landowner and operator management in the BGMA.
BGMA in the Lewis & Clark NRD
The Lewis & Clark NRD in accordance with Nebraska Revised Statute 46-673.01 adopted the Lewis & Clark NRD Groundwater Management Plan (GWMP) which created triggers to implement stages of groundwater quality management. In 2004, the Lewis & Clark NRD Board of Directors established the Bazile Groundwater Management Area (BGMA). Designation occurred following the 2003 irrigation water quality sampling season. At that time more than 50% of irrigation wells monitored indicated nitrate levels greater than 10 parts per million (ppm), meeting the trigger for Phase III management.
The Phase III requirements provide guidelines to adopt best management practices (BMPs) to turn around the trend of increasing nitrate levels. The BGMA region includes the recharge area for the primary drinking water source that supplies the City of Creighton.
The Bazile Groundwater Management Area in the Lewis & Clark NRD includes:
- Columbia Twp – (T29N-R3W), Only Section 6, 7, 18, and 19
- Cleveland Twp – (T29N-R4W), All sections except Sec 25, 26, 27, 34, 35, 36
- All of Creighton Township – T29N-R5W
Overview of Rules and Regulations for the LCNRD portion of the BGMA
- Annually submit crop and fertilizer report. Due April 1st each year
- Nitrate Nitrogen fertilizer applicator must attend district education programs on BMP to minimize pollution (4 year Cert- no charge)
- Deep Soil testing required on acres to be planted to corn – see brochure for more information. 50% cost share is available for deep soil testing - complete an application and return it to the LCNRD.
- Irrigation wells tested every two year for nitrate nitrogen content by Lewis & Clark NRD
- No fall or winter application of nitrogen fertilizer is allowed
- Split application of spring applied fertilizer exceeding 100 lbs per acre is recommended.
Programs offered by Lewis & Clark NRD in the Bazile GMA
The Deep Soil Sampling Cost Share Program is designed to encourage farmers to better manage fertilizer application by knowing how much nitrogen exists in the full crop root zone.
The purpose of the Chemigation cost share program is to encourage split application of nitrogen fertilizer. The program is for first time chemigators. LCNRD will pay $4.00 per irrigated acre for one pivot only. Payment will be made in the fall.
Siphoning Nitrates with Irrigated Pasture or Hay (SNIP) is designed to encourage irrigated alfalfa or pasture management in previous row crop areas to reduce nitrate-nitrogen concentrations in the soil and water.
Monitoring Well Network
The long-term goal of the observation well network is to define the groundwater flow system below the NRD. In order to accomplish this goal, test holes have been drilled, sampled and logged by University of Nebraska Lincoln (UNL) Conservation and Survey Division (CSD) geologists. The wells are designed using this information to monitor discrete intervals of the aquifer system. Beneath some of the proposed drilling sites there are multiple aquifers; therefore, there may be up to 3 wells at each site, monitoring water from different depths.
Once the monitoring wells are installed LCNRD staff can measure the depth to groundwater and collect groundwater samples for laboratory analysis of nitrate, chloride, sulfate and other groundwater components. Samples are taken monthly for the first year to assess the seasonal variations in water quality. If there is only a small amount of variation in concentrations the wells will be sampled on annual or semiannual basis in order to assess long-term water quality trends.
The monitoring well network helps LCNRD improve identification of the geologic characteristics and groundwater resources within the LCNRD. Knowledge of the aquifers which provide the majority of our drinking water and irrigation water will be significantly improved, making it possible for the LCNRD staff and Board of Directors to monitor and manage our groundwater resource.
Irrigation Water Quality Monitoring
The LCNRD monitors water quality from 200+ irrigation wells across the district. In 1987 the Lewis and Clark NRD began monitoring the level of nitrate-nitrogen in groundwater across the LCNRD and continues to do so each year during the irrigation season. The majority of the monitored irrigation wells are near Creighton, where water quality sampling is required as part of the Rules and Regulations implemented with the Bazile Groundwater Management Area.
Samples are collected from pre-determined, active irrigation wells between July and September. Accurate representation of the nitrate concentration in the aquifer being sampled requires the irrigation well to run for 24 hours prior to sampling. Samples are kept cool and a preservative added to ensure sample integrity is maintained until it is shipped in an insulated shipping box to a certified laboratory for nitrate-nitrogen testing. The nitrate level is measured in parts per million (ppm) with 10ppm being the maximum contaminant level for drinking water according to EPA regulations.
Cooperators receive a copy of the testing results each year to track the nitrate concentration in the groundwater of their irrigation wells. Crops benefit from the nitrate-nitrogen in the groundwater and the amount of nitrogen fertilizer applied during the growing season can be reduced accordingly. Knowing the nitrate level may help a producer reduce the amount of nitrogen applied to the crop, which could save the producer money and improve water quality.