A newly updated state website can show farmers, ranchers and drillers everything they might want to know about the content and quality of their groundwater.
The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy launched the Nebraska Groundwater Quality Clearinghouse earlier this week. With more than 1.6 million sample results from some 33,000 irrigation well locations, the website is the culmination of decades worth of sampling and research.
“In the past, you’d have to pull up our spreadsheet and go through that,” NDEE Groundwater Section Supervisor Dave Meisbach said, “but it was pretty archaic.”
One of the Clearinghouse’s key features is a map of the state with each well location plotted out. The areas around Scottsbluff and Alliance have some of the largest quantities of well sites.
These sites have been sampled by Nebraska’s 23 Natural Resources Districts since 1972 and tested for groundwater quality.
“Once they’d get those samples back, they’d send them to us,” Miesbach said.
Miesbach utilizes the NRDs’ findings every year to compile a report for the state’s legislature.
“One of the biggest things we were trying to do was make it easier for the NRDs to enter their data,” he said.
Before the Clearinghouse website’s creation, he said reporting the data was “unwieldy.”
Chief among the details on the map is the measure of nitrate in the water. Meisbach said safe levels for well water are less than 10 milligrams per liter.
“Nitrate was one of the things we knew right off the bat that was impacting our groundwater,” he said.
It’s far from the only material the Clearinghouse map searches for. Miesbach said there are 281 different minerals and chemicals whose well compositions were analyzed.
The map can also showcase aquifer locations, topographic regions and bedrock geology.
The new map has many practical uses for the public to engage with, Meisbach said. Farmers, for example, can check the composition of existing groundwater for chemical content to see how much fertilizer they will need. They can also gauge which locations have land suitable for raising and rearing livestock.
Well drillers, meanwhile, can check to see what the groundwater content of a property is like and notify the property owners. With a variety of layers to click through and analyze, there are several ways to use the site.
“I find something new every time I use it,” Meisbach said.
He said it is the composition of Nebraskan society which makes the composition of its groundwater such important knowledge for the public to access.
“If we weren’t in an agricultural community, we might dwell on something else,” he said.
The website can be accessed at clearinghouse.nebraska.gov.