November 2019
Latest News
No Additions to Phase II & III Areas in 2019
Our staff has completed the summer nitrate sampling from our network of wells for 2019. No new management zones will be moving into Phase II or III management. We would like to thank all agricultural producers in the Phase II & III Management Area for their continued efforts to soil sample, install and read irrigation scheduling equipment, attend certification training, and submit annual reports. We want to extend an additional thank you to those agricultural producers in Zone 5 who are using N-Serve along with their fall anhydrous applications, and have collected irrigation samples over the years. 

Your observance of the District’s rules and regulations are appreciated. 

Know your Zone: Check Zone Requirements
Groundwater Sampling Schedule
The Upper Big Blue NRD is divided into 12 groundwater quality Management Zones. The median nitrate value for that zone determines the phase of management and therefore, rules and regulations.
Taking a step back, the median nitrate value for a zone is the product of water samples collected from a specific network of wells. These wells are selected based on construction and geology. A well that provides accurate results is screened in one portion of the aquifer only, and does not have multiple screens. The screen also does not transect geological confining units such as clay layers, which could mix shallow and deep water.
Currently, there are 287 wells in the water quality network. Most of the wells are irrigation, with some monitoring, domestic, and public wells. To annually collect a water sample at each of these wells would be incredibly difficult given the sheer size of the District - over 1.2 million irrigated acres! Therefore, a rotation of zones below the Phase II trigger of 7.0 ppm was created. This means that if the median nitrate value of a Zone is below 7.0 ppm, it will be sampled once every three years. If the median nitrate value is above 7.0 ppm, that Zone will be sampled annually.
In 2020, District staff sampled wells in Zones 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 11.
In 2021, District staff will sample wells in Zones 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 11.
Thank you to all irrigation, domestic, and monitoring well owners for your continued cooperation. Protecting groundwater quality is an important task and your support is valuable.
Partnership with Nature Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and their corporate partners are interested in learning more about cover crop establishment. Stemming from the work done at Project GROW, representatives from TNC approached us with a demonstration opportunity, interseeding cover crops into actively growing cash crops. With financial assistance from their corporate partners, the Upper Big Blue NRD has acquired an interseeder to work with producers in developing demonstration size plots, interseeding into growing corn and soybean fields beginning in 2020.
The demonstration goal is to interseed cover crop seed into fields while the cash crops are small, allowing sunlight and water to germinate the cover crop seed. As the cash crop canopies, the cover crop will go dormant until early fall when the cash crop leaves mature to let light back into the canopy. This work has been done in the eastern corn belt, but little research/demonstration has been done in Nebraska.

We will work with the University of Nebraska Extension in York and Hamilton Counties to identify producers interested in this type of demonstration. Plots will be replicated and will cover approximately 5-10 acres. This is an exciting opportunity to partner with TNC and UNL Extension to further promote cover crops and their soil health benefits. 

Online Water Reporting Begins
The Upper Big Blue NRD is pleased to offer online reporting for water use beginning in 2019. A link from the website takes you to the Beehive Online Reporting Portal . Along with your hardcopy reports, you will receive an ‘Activation Key’ to set up your online account. The only requirements to create the online account are an active email address and a minimum of eight-character password. Producers without an active email address will be required to continue to turn in hardcopy reports.

Once logged into the online portal, a list of wells to report will be on the left side of the screen. Clicking on each well will populate information to the right. Please review the information. If everything appears to be correct, click the ‘Withdrawal Details’ tab above. This screen will allow you to enter your ending flowmeter reading or estimated hours pumped for the growing season. After ‘Saving’ your flowmeter reading(s) you must ‘Submit‘ your report. The well will move from the ‘To Do’ list to the ‘Submitted’ list.  Helpful hint: you can still edit a report while the well is in the ‘Submitted’ list. Once submitted, NRD staff will review the entry and move it to the ‘Approved’ list. If the NRD staff have questions or concerns, you will be contacted by phone or email and the well will be moved back to the ‘To Do’ list for reentry.

Early response from our testing group has been positive. If the water use reporting season goes well, we will roll out the Phase II & III reporting later this winter. Please give it a try. If you have any questions, we are here to help. Give us a call at 402-362-6601.
Max Profit Vs. Max Production
A recent study from UNL looks at several factors to determine the optimal level of Nitrogen for improved profitability for corn growers in Nebraska.
On Farm Research Partnerships
With an increase in the number of producers interested in doing On Farm Research in partnership with the Upper Big Blue NRD, we have reached out to UNL Extension for technical assistance. “The UBBNRD does not have the personnel to set up randomized replicated research style plots, and UNL Extension has a dedicated On Farm Research Program. It makes sense to bring in a partner like UNL Extension to help the District and our producer volunteers to get this research off the ground,” says Marie Krausnick, water department manager.
The On Farm Research program will bring your research ideas and extension experts together to design a research work plan that can provide benefits to all. On Farm Research plots are approximately 5-10 acres in size, and will fit within UNL plot design standards. We will provide support on a demonstration by demonstration basis. “The District will have flexibility to contribute to On Farm esearch in a variety of ways based on design and need” says Krausnick.
If you are interested in participating in On Farm Research, contact Marie at 402-362-6601 or by email at or your local UNL Extension agent. 
Irrigation Water Nitrate Analysis
Do you farm in the townships of Waco, New York, Lockridge, Bradshaw, Beaver, and Leroy? These townships are in a Phase III Water Quality Management Area, Zone 5. You must have your irrigation water tested for nitrates at least once every three years on all active wells. This three-year cycle began April 1, 2017, and ends April 1, 2020.
Not sure how to get started?
First, choose a lab to conduct your analysis. The NRD offers free nitrate testing, or you can choose any reputable lab to perform the analysis. Be sure to follow lab specific sampling instructions to ensure accurate results.
Using a different lab?
Submit the results and well location information to the Upper Big Blue NRD.
Choosing the NRD lab?
You can visit the NRD website to download NRD lab instructions. You can also stop in the NRD office to pick up bottles and instructions. Please note, samples will not be accepted past 48 hours after collection. 
We understand that 2019 was a short pumping season. If you did not get your samples collected please remember to sample in 2020.
Not sure if you are in compliance? Call Erinn at 402-362-6601.
Upcoming Events
Project GROW Winter Workshop
Holthus Convention Center (York)

12/03/19 8:30am - 12/03/19 3:00pm

RSVP by November 26 if you plan to attend. Lunch is included.
I'll be there!
I can't make it.
***Attendance at this workshop counts toward Phase II & III Management Area Certification***

Please RSVP by November 26.
Workshop Speakers
  • Crystal Powers, Research & Extension, Communication Specialist, Nebraska Water Center
  • Al Dutcher, Associate Nebraska State Climatologist
  • Keith Berns, No-Till Farmer & Co-owner of Green Cover Crop Seeds in Bladen, NE
  • Patricio Grassini, Associate Professor, UNL Agronomy, Cropping Systems