Agricultural producers located in priority watershed have until July 19 to apply for funds.
Over 80 percent of Nebraskans get their drinking water from groundwater sources. In some parts of the state, that groundwater is threatened with contamination.
To help protect groundwater, special initiative funding is available through the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) National Water Quality Initiative for producers in the Bazile Creek watershed. Funding through this initiative will offer financial assistance to producers to install conservation practices that will improve water quality. Interested applicants need to apply for this funding by July 19, 2019.
The area eligible to apply for funding through the National Water Quality Initiative lies within four Natural Resources Districts – the Upper Elkhorn, Lower Elkhorn, Lewis and Clark, and Lower Niobrara NRDs. This eligibility area is also within a critical water quality area known as the Bazile groundwater management area (see map).
Dennis Schueth, general manager of the Upper Elkhorn NRD said, “This gives producers another financial incentive to try some form of conservation practice they have never tried before. Hopefully, this would be an educational tool for those producers that helps their financial bottom line while enhancing the environment as it relates to water quality and quantity.”
Listed as an impaired water body, the Bazile Creek watershed has seen an increase in sediment and an overabundance of nutrients in both surface and groundwater. Nitrate levels in the groundwater have risen above the Environmental Protection Agency’s safe drinking level standard. Nitrate levels above this standard pose a human health risk and have created a challenge for communities in the Bazile groundwater management area to provide safe drinking water to residents. The National Water Quality Initiative will work with producers in the area to implement conservation practices to reduce groundwater contamination and control runoff.
Jim Mathine, district conservationist at the NRCS field office in Spencer encourages landowners within the watershed to contact their local NRCS office to take advantage of this opportunity.
Mathine said, “This Initiative will allow producers to receive funding and technical assistance to apply conservation practices that enhance water quality while lowering input costs and increasing land productivity. Working with producers to increase water quality in the Bazile Creek watershed will benefit every resident in the area through safer drinking water, more productive cropland, and improved wildlife habitat.”
According to Mathine, numerous conservation practices like cover crops, filter strips, nutrient management, no-till and other erosion control practices that improve water quality qualify for funding. These conservation practices not only protect water quality, they can also improve soil health and cropland productivity.