Groundwater Allocations Approved For 2023, Restrictions Will Be Lifted If Drought Conditions Downgrade

NORFOLK – Many patrons showed up at the October Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) board meeting with more discussion on the possibility of groundwater use restrictions for next year.

According to a release from LERND, the board needed to make a decision by November 1 about any limited use of water for the following year, according to the LENRD’s drought management plan.

Going into the meeting, the district continued to be in a D3 & D4 drought, as determined by the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The board approved the recommendations presented at their October meeting, by the Ad-Hoc Drought Response Committee, to limit the amount of groundwater use in 2023.

The decision will limit municipal water supply wells to 250 gallons per day per capita for any city or town in a D3 or D4 designation, while irrigation wells (that do not already have an allocation) will be limited to 15 inches per acre for each certified irrigated acre, for any well located in a designated D3 or D4 area.

Municipalities will also be required to adopt a plan for water conservation practices and water use restrictions and provide a copy to the LENRD by March 1, 2023.

Chad Korth, LENRD director from Meadow Grove, said, “we wanted everybody involved in our discussions, not just agriculture. That’s why the municipalities are included, we’re all in this together. The idea is to preserve this water for the next generation.”

The decision from the board to impose allocations for next year is in response to the responsibility to protect the health and welfare of the public during a drought, but it’s also the first step in the plan to minimize negative impacts to groundwater supplies.

Mike Sousek, LENRD general manager, added, “if it doesn’t rain, we have to be prepared, not only for next year, but for the year or two following. We are being proactive. We have to prepare for the worst and help producers plan for a possible shortage of water in year 2 or 3 of the drought.”

LENRD officials also stated if drought conditions are downgraded to a D2 designation for 14 consecutive days, all restrictions will be lifted.

The district also made the decision to forego the consideration of requests for new uses of groundwater for irrigation. This will allow for the completion of previously approved projects and to monitor and assess impacts to groundwater supplies for all users.

In other action, the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District board directed staff to contact producers whose irrigation wells have exceeded the annual allocation for groundwater uses for 2022, as outlined in the LENRD’s conditions for approval policy for new irrigation wells. Violators could receive a penalty that would reduce their allocation for the next two years as public hearings will be held with the board on each individual case.

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The next LERND Board of Directors committee meeting will be Thursday, November 10 at the LENRD office in Norfolk at 7:00 p.m. and on Facebook Live.