Water Meters: A management tool to protect existing users

The Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) is discussing changes to their Groundwater Management Plan to more efficiently and effectively promote sound stewardship of groundwater.  These changes will help the LENRD in its mission to conserve, develop, and manage the water resources of northeast Nebraska.

While multiple changes to the Groundwater Management Plan are anticipated, the first proposed change is to require flow meters on all irrigation wells.  Once the meters are installed, the LENRD will consider allocations throughout the district.  Cost-share assistance for purchasing and installing flow meters is available this year.  The signup deadline is October 16th.  Producers are encouraged to visit their local NRCS office to take advantage of this opportunity.

Water meters are a valuable tool for the LENRD and producers for measuring water use.  The meters will provide data to better understand cropirrigation needs.  This data, along with UNL’s crop irrigation requirement research will be used to develop reasonable, allocations.  If allocations are in place, the meters will provide an equitable and impartial measurement for all irrigators.

Flow meters, allow for an accurate, standard measuring system from one producer to the next to measure groundwater use.  Meters willaccurately measure the volume of water being applied to help prevent over irrigation.

The goal of this program is to keep the district from implementing drastic changes to water policy during drought conditions.  The drought of 2012 prompted the district to make difficult decisions over a short period of time, addressing urgent water shortage conditions.  Having meters in place will allow the district to set allocations during times of drought.  Overall, this is the most fair and equitable management tool that  allows both producers and the LENRD to best manage our finite resource of water.  Water meters will allow the district to address water shortage concerns from year to year and keep the economic engine of northeast Nebraska running.

LENRD General Manager, Mike Sousek, said, "Using meters in not necessarily for managing groundwater under normal conditions, but planning for the infrequent challenges during extreme drought that will allow for protection of all existing uses, and in areas allow for the expansion of uses, providing continued economic benefit to the region, and maximizing the overall benefit for northeast Nebraska and improving the quality of life for its residents."