It’s estimated that around 88% of Nebraska residents are reliant on groundwater to supply drinking water to their homes. For these reasons, it’s vital to protect both groundwater and surface water supplies from contamination, especially from agricultural sources. This is a problem that may not be resolved by municipal water suppliers, and residents may have to take more responsibility for their own water treatment. Let’s take a closer look at some of the water quality issues facing Nebraska residents today.
The State of Drinking Water in Nebraska
While it may be true that many agricultural producers are more aware now of the application of chemical fertilizers, there is still a problem. Both state and national agencies are currently involved in imposing specific regulations to safeguard our water quality.
Stronger water purification capabilities and an improvement in fertilizer use have reduced the number of incidents where nitrate levels have exceeded the safe drinking water threshold. In 2017, monitoring indicated that 44 occasions had occurred, which is a significant improvement on the 139 such incidents that occurred in 2008.
If two or more nitrate related violations occur within any nine month period, the state will issue an administrative order to direct the local water provider to take action. In 2017, the state needed to issue this order seven times, which is up from five such incidents in 2016. In total, these affected areas had a combined population of 642 people.
In certain parts of the state, the nitrate concentration levels in the groundwater have risen to a level that is concerning. University of Nebraska specialists and natural resources districts are working alongside local water producers to solve this problem. The proposed solutions may vary a great deal depending on the specific nitrate levels in various areas of the local river basin.
Water Quality Management
The Little Blue Natural Resources District (NRD) has designated eight separate “water quality management areas” where steps need to be taken to address these nitrate related concerns. In the northeast of the state another four NRDs, Upper Elkhorn, Lower Elkhorn, Lower Niobrara, and Lewis and Clark, have all adopted a joint regional water plan that is the first effort of its kind to gain federal approval. Some recent reports from these NRDs have highlighted some of the critical water quality concerns, here are some examples:
- Certain parts of Little Blue NRD found nitrate levels that exceeded 10 ppm that is considered to be the safe limit for drinking water.
- The Lower Elkhorn NRD tested more than 700 wells throughout Pierce and Madison Counties between 2015 and 2017. It was found that the average nitrate concentration was 13 ppm, which is 3 ppm above the 10 ppm safe drinking threshold.
- The Lower Niobrara NRD identified eight areas with elevated nitrate levels, and they found that 75% of local agricultural producers were applying higher than recommended nitrogen levels to their crops.
It’s clear that Nebraska has some serious water quality issues especially in relation to contamination from nitrates. The best way to enjoy cleaner water is to add a domestic water treatment system in your home to protect your family. Consult your local water treatment specialist, and they will be able to offer advice on how to proceed.
By EcoWater Systems.
EcoWater Systems of Nebraska is the largest water treatment company in the state and is a member of Water Quality Association.