WELL SHORTAGES ARE BECOMING COMMON THIS SUMMER
Jul 20, 2012
Reports are coming in to the Lewis and Clark Natural Resources District about groundwater shortages affecting domestic and irrigation wells for landowners in the area. Some wells are going dry, while others yield water for only parts of the day and need to recharge before they can produce water.
NRD Manager, Tom Moser, who received some of the reports, has contacted hydrogeologists with the University of Nebraska, Conservation and Survey Division for information on the cause of the problem and possible remedies which might be available.
Sue Lackey, UNL Conservation and Survey specialist, of Norfolk, attributes the shortage to "prolonged pumping and a confined aquifer" geologic condition located in parts of the NRD. "There appears to be only a thin layer of water-bearing gravel (maybe 20 feet deep in spots) providing groundwater to many wells in those areas," she stated; "and water can't move sideways fast enough to replenish heavily pumped areas because of the glacial aquifer material and quantity limitations. There can also be an associated loss of hydrologic pressure which causes water levels to drop."
It is quite likely that extensive tiling the last few years have depleted groundwater recharge potential. The loss of tile drained water in many areas contributes to the shortage of groundwater availability. "Dry surface conditions and extensive irrigation use has likely contributed to make the problem worse than in previous years," Moser noted. He encouraged neighbors to work together if there appears to be groundwater conflicts across property lines because groundwater is a shared resource.
Legally, Nebraska's statutes give priority to domestic users in periods of short supply and if there appears to be a provable hydrologic connection between a domestic well owner and an irrigation well owner, the owner of the domestic well can file a lawsuit to assure him of a supply by having the irrigation well shut down for periods of time.
There are further legal regulations which could be brought in to control irrigation usage under Nebraska's Groundwater Management Act. They include allocation of available supplies or rotation of use according to metered irrigation quotas. These regulations are typically used when groundwater quantities show continuous annual loss and not seasonal drawdown. They would take several months to implement. NRD's do not have the authority to require wells to be shut off.
Individually affected well owners have a few options to consider for meeting their water needs. If the well is older, they may consider a new well or try acidizing their existing well to dissolve hardness deposits and improve the groundwater flow through well screens. Deepening the pump location in the well might be possible to attain a better supply.
"Those people living in or near the areas experiencing problems should contact a competent well driller for guidance on how best to deal with their particular situation," said Moser. "Hopefully this is just the short term effect of the drought we have to live with until rainfall returns to reduce the competition for groundwater resources."