Drought stretches on

Omaha.com

Image courtesy of Sam Beebe

NORFOLK, Neb. (AP) — The continuing drought in Nebraska has given rise to conflicts between the users of residential and irrigation wells, forcing some districts to consider alternative control measures.

The Norfolk-based Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District is considering the installation of flow meters and pumping limits. The district board voted this week to reserve $100,000 to buy flow meters. Residents who want the meters will have to pay half the cost.

Last month, the district paid up to $1,500 to 18 people who qualified for assistance because their household wells were drawn down by irrigation.

Authorities say water levels have dropped over the past year in all 243 irrigation wells in the district.

The U.S. Drought Monitor map shows virtually all of Nebraska in extreme or exceptional drought.

Jerold Meyer, a Wayne County farmer, told the board that a neighbor refused to modify his irrigation well, even though it has contributed to the reduced water level in his domestic well. Meyer asked the board to resolve the issue so he wouldn’t have to sue his neighbor.

“I don’t see why we couldn’t have flow meters administered to those particular wells,” board member Mike Krueger said.

But before going ahead with the meter distribution, the district staff must draft a plan that designates the conflict areas.

“I hope we could get staff to accelerate the process on some of our known hot spots,” said board member Gary Loftis.

Rick Wozniak, water resources manager, said the district can control irrigation in defined areas by, for example, saying watering can take place only at night.

The district would have to present a plan to state officials for approval, Wozniak said.

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