Creation of a water quality sub-area due to rising levels of nitrates in groundwater north and east of Columbus will be considered at a public hearing hosted by the Lower Loup Natural Resources District on Tuesday, January 7th, at 12:00 p.m. at the ADM Training Center, 860 E. 29th Avenue in Columbus.

LLNRD General Manager Russell Callan said the District will consider the creation of the new water quality sub-area in Phase III groundwater management at the public hearing on January 7th.   The proposed new area, Water Quality Sub-Area 30, would be created to address nitrate levels as high as 48 parts per million (ppm).  The federal limit on groundwater nitrates is 10 ppm.

To address the high nitrate levels, the new area would be placed in Phase III management.  A rule change earlier in 2019 allows for a portion of an existing water quality management area to be placed in a sub-area and at a different level of management.

In Phase III, farm operators must be certified to apply fertilizer.  Chemical fertilizer applications must not begin until after March 1st and may require an inhibitor,  annual soil, and water (and where applied, manure) sample analysis must be completed and submitted to the LLNRD, water meters must be installed on all irrigation wells, and annual reporting must be completed.

Those with questions regarding the proposed new water quality area should attend the informational meeting or contact the Lower Loup NRD at (308) 728-3221.

The hearing public notice is below.



 Groundwater Quality: It is the goal of the Lower Loup Natural Resources District to maintain the quality of the groundwater in the groundwater reservoir to within maximum contaminant level for all chemicals and compounds established by the Nebraska Department of Environmental and Energy and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.  Also, to establish a public information, education, and management program designed to reduce existing and potential non-point source contamination of the ground reservoir.

 The District, to achieve these goals has been divided into twenty-nine (29) Ground Water Quality Management Sub Areas. There are three (3) levels of controls set by the District within the management sub areas. Newly established Groundwater Quality Sub-Area 30 will move to Phase III management.

Phase III areas are set with median nitrate nitrogen levels of over 8.6 mg/l over a continuous four (4) year period beginning with the 1994 test results.

 Prior to placing any management sub area into a higher phase or lower phase, there will be a public hearing held by Lower Loup Natural Resources District Board of Directors.

 Groundwater Quality Management Sub Area Phase III.  The Lower Loup Natural Resources District will designate a Groundwater Quality Management Sub Area into Phase III when the median nitrate nitrogen level is over 8.6 mg/l for four (4) consecutive years beginning with the 1994 test results.  The specific controls are:

a.       Phase I & II requirements will continue unless modified or negated by Phase III requirements

b.       Farm operators using nitrogen fertilizers must attend and pass a certification class conducted by the Lower Loup NRD or an adjoining Natural Resources District

c.       Application of nitrogen fertilizer is prohibited on all soils being planted to corn, grain sorghum, soybeans and potatoes until after March 1st of each year. Spring application of nitrogen fertilizer must be in accordance with guidelines set up by the Lower Loup Natural Resources District, as follows:

a.       Split applications are authorized; either preplant or pre-emergent/post-emergent, when no more than 50% of actual nitrogen is being applied as preplant or pre-emergent,

b.       If more than 50% is applied as preplant or pre-emergent, the operators must furnish dealer documentation that a labeled nitrogen inhibitor was used at the recommended rate;

c.       In cases where the total application is 80 pounds of actual nitrogen or less, a labeled nitrogen inhibitor is not required;

d.       No restrictions if nitrogen fertilizer is applied post-emergent.

d.       An operator must

1)   Supply an annual water analysis for nitrogen concentrations for all wells irrigating corn, grain sorghum, soybeans and potatoes

2)   Obtain one composite deep soil nitrate analysis (0-36”) for, no greater than, each 80-acres of field of irrigated corn, grain sorghum, soybeans and potatoes, and submit the results of the analysis prior to February 1st for that crop year following obtainment of the soil sample

3)   Obtain one manure analysis for total nitrogen for each manure source applied to irrigated corn, grain sorghum, soybeans, and potatoes;

4)   Submit, on forms provided by the District, a report of yearly water tests, flow meter reading, water applied, soil tests, crops planted, yield goals, nitrogen applied, and other field information required to be reported prior to January 31st of each year

5)  Monitor water application with a flow meter so operators can more effectively manage fertilizer applications. The flow meter shall be installed and approved by District staff within three years of the management area designation

A Public Hearing on the proposed Phase III designation will be held Tuesday, January 7, 2020, at 12:00 p.m., at ADM, 860 E. 29th Avenue, Columbus, Nebraska.  A copy of the proposed controls may be obtained at the Lower Loup NRD Headquarters Office in Ord, the NRCS office in Columbus, or on-line at

Those persons unable to appear at the public hearing or those persons with lengthy testimony may wish to submit their testimony in writing.

In order to be considered by the Board of Directors for the purposes of this hearing, such testimony must be received by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, January 6, 2020 at the Lower Loup NRD Headquarters, 2620 Airport Drive, Ord, NE, 68862.