January 15, 2010

Groundwater levels rise across state

Above-average precipitation over several years, improved farming practices and irrigation technology have created "reasons for cautious optimism," as a recent report says groundwater levels over much of Nebraska have rebounded slightly.

That is the lede paragraph from this article in The Grand Island Independent

Reporter Robert Pore wrote the article after examining a groundwater report produced by the University of Nebraska.

While declines in water levels are still evident from "the period of predevelopment of irrigation," over the last year widespread increases of 1 to 5 feet were shown.

"A return to anywhere from average to well above-average precipitation in all but the western tip of the Panhandle is the main reason for these increases," Jesse Korus, a groundwater geologist in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's School of Natural Resources, told the paper.

While the first part of this decade saw several years of drought, the drought ended and above average rain in 2007 and 2008 reversed it, helping to recharge aquifers.

Jess Mintken, Natural Resources District resource conservationist, also credited improved farming practices and irrigation technology for helping to recharge groundwater aquifers.

"People are using water more wisely than perhaps they did a decade ago," Mintken told the paper.

Two examples of this are low-pressure pivot irrigation and more farmers using conservation tillage and other management practices to help the soil retain moisture.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Census of Agriculture also indicates changes in water use.

The USDA study shows that 80 percent of the irrigation in Nebraska is done with pivots (low pressure sprinklers) versus 20 percent for gravity irrigation - a significant change from 1998 when only 35 percent was the more efficient low-pressure sprinkler method.

Farmers also reduced their water use 11 percent in 2008 compared to 1998 - and 33 percent from the drought year 2003.

While Nebraskans regularly see irrigation pivots during the summertime, since irrigation is more common in the state, that is not case across the Corn Belt. In fact, less than 15 percent of the nation's corn crop sees irrigation water -- meaning 85 percent is watered only by Mother Nature.

We did not have any irrigation on the farm I grew up on in Northwest Iowa - and I didn't really know much about it (or what a "pivot" was) until moving to Nebraska, which has an incredible resource in the aquifer.

1 comment:

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    Joan Stepsen
    Wise geek