In 2001, the USGS (U.S Geological Survey) began the second decade of the National Water Quality Assessment Program in the Cycle II of intensive water quality assessments. This cycle involved revisiting 42 aquifer systems and major river basins that were assessed in the previous decade. The NAWQA program was designed to provide a long term, nationwide data resource for information on groundwater, streams and aquatic ecosystems water quality.
Basins in Central Nebraska
The basins in Central Nebraska were assessed as part of the NAWQA program. The assessment was based on the area downstream of the Platte River fork near the North Platte in Nebraska. This was a 30,000 square mile study unit involved collecting and analyzing water chemistry, land use, hydrology, aquatic life and stream habitats. The water resource information produced is essential for the development of management strategies to protect and restore water quality. Through the adherence to the design of the NAWQA and consistent sampling, the Central Nebraska Basins water quality can be compared to other geographical regions to advance the understanding of changes in water quality.
Major Historical Issues:
Since agriculture is a dominant use of the land in central Nebraska, this can impact the quality of water resources. In a 2002 NAWQA study, the contamination of streams and waterways was linked to agricultural runoff containing nitrogen, phosphorus, and other nutrients. Between 1992 and 1995, the Platte River alluvial aquifer nitrate levels averaged as one of the highest in any NAWQA study unit. The largest concentrations were predominantly in streams that drained central Nebraska cropland, particularly those where soybeans and corn were produced. The sources of these nutrients include commercial fertilizers, animal manure, and raw or treated sewage.
Nebraska also ranked second in the nation in 2000 for the total numbers of cattle, cattle on feed and cattle waste. This constitutes a major source of nutrients in the environment. Between 1992 and 1995, pesticide concentrations in the streams of Nebraska were also the largest recorded at any NAWQA site. All samples taken from the Platte River alluvial aquifer contained pesticides.
The Cycle II Revisit:
During the second cycle of the assessments, the aim was to focus on a number of major activities including water quality trends, agricultural chemicals, and the impact of the agricultural activity on water quality. Studies in the NAWQA Program have been dedicated to tracking the changes in contaminant levels in certain important agricultural areas, where there are intense sources of contamination and drinking water sources may have been affected.
Throughout the study area, sampling locations were chosen, and the team installed 31 monitoring wells. Soil samples were collected during the drilling to check how the soil characteristics varied at different depths. These samples were analyzed for chloride, nutrients and other physical properties. Between 2003 and 2005, samples were collected every quarter and this was reduced to every two years in order to monitor ongoing trends.
Although the use of nitrate and other chemicals is common practice in the agricultural industry, it can impact water quality. Residential water technology can offer an affordable method to eliminate this problem. A fully WQA certified water treatment professional will be able to explain the treatment processes to help resolve your water quality issues.
About The Author, Terry Reeh, EcoWater Systems of Nebraska:
With more than 25 years experience in the residential and commercial water treatment space, Terry is a WQA (Water Quality Association) certified water specialist, LEVEL 3, as well as a WQA certified sales representative. Terry currently sits on EcoWater Systems (a Berkshire Hathaway Company) national Peers committee, as a water treatment expert advising other water professionals with less experience on best trade and technology practices. EcoWater Systems of Nebraska is one of the biggest water treatment and water delivery businesses in the state.