At their November meeting, the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) Board of Directors voted to require flow meters on all irrigation wells. After many months of discussion, they voted 8 to 7 to amend the district's groundwater management plan to require the meters across the 15-county district.
General manager Mike Sousek said, "This is the first step in the process. We need to know how much water is being pumped. The meters will help us determine that." He continued, "This tough decision highlights that your local leaders are discussing and addressing water challenges and preparing for the future. The long term goal of the LENRD is to protect and maintain the longevity of the aquifer."
The State of Nebraska operates under the correlative rights doctrine - meaning each landowner is entitled to an equal and reasonable share as long as the water is being withdrawn for beneficial uses by its citizens. The LENRD board has been tasked with protecting current users and developing more uses for groundwater, the economic engine supporting northeast Nebraska.
Sousek said, "This idea of an unlimited water supply has been deflated in recent years. The board is making management decisions that protect all users, not just irrigation, and this includes domestic and livestock needs."
Sousek said that now that flow meters have been approved, there is a lot of work to be done.
“The next step is to start working on rules and regulations,” Sousek said. A public hearing will be held in January. Through this process, the board will continue to work out the details of the plan to address when the flow meters will be required, the type of flow meters that will be approved, and who will be able to install the flow meters.