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UNL Professor Derrel Martin addressed the importance of managing the aquifer and finding a balance for the benefit of all users during his presentation at this year’s URNRD water conference. (Johnson Publications photo)

Managing the aquifer means finding a balance

■ This is the fourth in a series of stories reporting on the water conference held in Imperial March 27.

    Using allocations to manage groundwater use serves as a favorable method to protect the Ogallala aquifer.
    University of Nebraska Professor Derrel Martin likes the method which has served as an effective tool in the Upper Republican Natural Resources District (URNRD) to manage the aquifer.
    Martin was among the keynote speakers at the URNRD’s second annual water conference in Imperial March 27.
    The URNRD is one of only two NRD regions in Nebraska where groundwater has shown a decline from pre-irrigation development.
    Use of allocations and other rules has helped stem those declines over time. Areas in western Chase and Dundy Counties experienced declines of 40 feet or more.
    But as a state, the aquifer under Nebraska actually gained 1.1 million acre feet (AF)  from 1950 to 2011.
    Martin said the largest declines have occurred in Texas and Kansas.
    Texas has depleted 60 percent of the total volume of the aquifer underneath it. Kansas is next with a 26 percent decline.
Streamflow depletion
    Martin, PhD, PE, serves as professor of Biological Systems Engineering and is an Extension specialist in Irrigation and Water Resources Engineering at UNL.
    He said there’s no question of the hydrologic connection that groundwater pumping adversely affects the amount of water available as stream flow.
    As groundwater pumping occurs, the level of the aquifer declines. This results in less water coming into the stream.
    Wells near streams and rivers have more immediate effect than wells further away. But over time, both play a role in declining streamflow.
    However, groundwater pumping can’t be singled out as the only factor.

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