URNRD Water Testing Program

URNRD Water Testing Program

Past Water Testing Program

The District's water quality sampling program began in 1974, and more sampling sites were added in 1980. In the winter, the same 77, mostly-unregistered, domestic and stock wells were sampled for nitrate each year.

In the summer, about 276 wells were sampled for nitrate each year. The same domestic and livestock wells were sampled as in the winter, and if a well had a nitrate concentration greater than 4 mg/l, then an additional 12 groundwater samples in a 3-mile radius were taken. These additional wells were mainly domestic and stock wells but they may also include irrigation wells. This normally added up to a little more than 200 wells (213 wells were sampled in 2015). In addition, 63 irrigation wells were sampled and tested in the summer for nitrate and the results submitted to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for inclusion in their water quality database.

The new program is intended to provide more geographic uniformity of water testing in the district and better identify possible sources of water quality problems. The new water testing program will also provide potential solutions to water-quality problems.

Current Water Testing Program

The goals of the current water testing program are twofold – identify and reduce human health risk and improve the general health of the aquifer beneath the URNRD. Beginning in the summer of 2017, summer sampling will focus on the general aquifer health within the District. One hundred thirty-four irrigation wells will be sampled to estimate the average nitrate concentration throughout the district. The locations of the wells were chosen to obtain an accurate nitrate concentration throughout the District. The results of the analyses determine the boundary designations of the different phase requirements for farm management practices within the District. While most of the District has relatively good water quality, some areas have higher nitrate concentrations and in those areas the URNRD requires land owners and operators to follow farm management practices that will maintain or reduce nitrate concentrations in the groundwater.

The winter sampling focuses more on human health. There are about 380 registered domestic wells in the District, and the District will sample approximately 76 wells each year on a 5-year cycle, so all registered domestic wells will be sampled every 5 years. If a well has a nitrate-nitrogen concentration greater than 10 mg/l, then an URNRD representative will inspect the well’s construction information and site to determine the potential source of the high nitrate.

Unregistered wells may be sampled upon request, but the owner must first register the well. The sampling program is focused on nitrate, but if the owner has other water quality concerns, then the owner may request that the sample be tested for other water quality constituents.