A Monthly Publication of the Nebraska Environmental Trust

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Pete Ricketts, Governor

Board of Trustees

District I
District II
District III

Agency Directors

Trust Staff

May 2015

In This Issue:

  1. Executive Director Corner
  2. Funding Categories Roundtable Meetings
  3. Centralized Water Use Database for Republican River Basin, Southwest Nebraska - Suat Irmak and Lameck. O. Odhiambo, University of Nebraska - Lincoln
  4. Upcoming Events


Executive Director Corner

Next month on June 5, 11 and 15, we will be holding roundtable meetings to get input from the public about the Trust’s funding categories and how the Trust is performing.  We will welcome comments on what the Trust is doing right and what we can do to improve our services.  These meetings are held every five years and are very important to the Trust and our future operations.  See below in this newsletter for details about the meetings and getting registered.

The Trust board is seeing some changes.  We learned that Dr. Joseph Acierno has resigned from the Department of Health and Human Services, thus vacating his position on the Trust board.  Dr. James Schneider continues as Acting Director of the Dept. of Natural Resources, but he is ineligible to be appointed to the permanent position, as statute requires the person have a professional engineering degree, so a new appointment from the Governor could come at any time.  Jim Hellbusch was appointed to the board by Governor Ricketts to represent District 1.  Bob Krohn was reappointed to represent District 2 and Rod Christen was reappointed to represent District 3.  In the past Rod represented District 1, but after the last census, he is now in District 3 and no longer in District 1.  Rod was confirmed by the Legislature, while Bob and Jim will probably be confirmed this week. 

As many parts of California look at the worst drought in their history, Lincoln is on track to have the wettest May on record.  Most parts of Nebraska are currently getting adequate if not too much moisture.  Less than a week ago there was up to 22 inches of new snow in northwest parts of the state.  Then there have been a number of tornadoes and several large hail events with stones reaching baseball size across the State. 

Hopefully many of you can attend one of our roundtable meetings next month.  Have a great summer.

Mark Brohman
Executive Director  


Funding Categories Roundtable Meetings

The Nebraska Environmental Trust will be organizing its Categories Roundtable 2015 Meetings. Grantees, partners and interested members of the public may attend the meeting to let their voices be heard in suggesting new categories of funding for the Trust or revising the existing ones.

The Trust sets its funding categories for five-year periods, in a process involving members of the Nebraska public and conservation communities. Until July 2015, the Trust will consider funding proposals in the following areas: Habitat, Surface and Ground Water, Waste Management, Air Quality and Soil Management.

Any project or portion of a project funded by the Nebraska Environmental Trust must achieve one or more of the following Trust categories. These category areas are equally important. Here's a look at the complete funding category statements:

Habitat: actions to preserve or restore native habitats and areas critical to at-risk, rare or endangered species; other preservation actions for at-risk, rare or endangered species including actions to understand ecosystem relationships which inform sound management; community habitat enhancement emphasizing native and ecologically appropriate plantings which provide food and shelter for wildlife; actions to inform and educate which contribute to the attainment of this category.

Surface and Ground Water: actions to preserve or restore lakes, waterways and ground water from degradation or depletion; actions to research, design or foster best management practices; actions to conserve water and/or efficiently and effectively manage water use; actions to inform and educate which contribute to the attainment of this category.

Waste Management: actions promoting and implementing source reduction, waste management or toxicity reduction; actions promoting and implementing the development of recycling markets; actions promoting and implementing reuse and other disposal diversion actions; actions to inform and educate which contribute to the attainment of this category.

Air Quality: actions promoting and implementing clean air strategies; including greenhouse gas reductions; actions to research, design or foster best management strategies; actions to inform and educate which contribute to the attainment of this category.

Soil Management: actions and strategies to preserve, conserve and restore soil health; actions to research, design or foster the implementation and management of these strategies; actions to inform and educate which contribute to the attainment of this category.

There will be a public meeting in each of the three Congressional Districts from 9:30am-3:30pm each day.  A free lunch will be served and there is no registration cost, but we do ask for you to register.  The meetings are:
Friday, June 5th in North Platte at the Mid-Plains Community College (1101 Halligan Drive)
Thursday, June 11th in Omaha at Lauritzen Garden (100 Bancroft Street)
Monday, June 15th in Lincoln at Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s Outdoor Education Center (4703 N. 44th Street)  

A lunch will be provided, so if you plan to attend one of the meetings, please RSVP to env.trust@nebraska.gov by May 27th.          


Centralized Water Use Database for Republican River Basin, Southwest Nebraska - Suat Irmak and Lameck. O. Odhiambo, University of Nebraska - Lincoln

The way irrigation water use is monitored today and documented is bound to change with the development of new technologies that are capable of remotely reading irrigation flow meters and archiving the records in a centralized water use database. University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) Professor Dr. Suat Irmak and Research Assistant Professor Dr. Lameck Odhiambo, both of Biological Systems Engineering Department, are implementing a next generation pilot project on automated irrigation water use monitoring and data collection for addressing current and future water issues. The project is being implemented as pilot project at the Middle Republican Natural Resource District (MRNRD) and was funded by the Nebraska Environmental Trust (NET) for a three year period (2012-2015). The long-term goal of the project is to establish a basin-wide automated irrigation water use monitoring and database that can enhance accurate measurements and proper documentation of water use in the Republican River Basin.


The MRNRD where the pilot project is being implemented is one of the 14 Natural Resource Districts (NRDs) in the State of Nebraska charged with the responsibility to promote sustainable balance between water use and supply so that the area’s economic viability in terms of sustainable use of water resources can be achieved and maintained for both the near term and long term.  The MRNRD in collaboration with three other NRDs that cover the Republican River Basin on the Nebraska side (i.e. Upper Republican NRD, Tri-Basin NRD, and Lower Republican NRD) have developed a joint Integrated Management Plan (IMP) for ground water and surface water resources. One of the key elements needed for successful IMP implementation is accurate monitoring and documenting the amount of ground water withdrawal for irrigation. Currently, ground water withdrawals are monitored from a network of metered irrigation wells.

There are over 24,000 active irrigation wells in the Republican River Basin on the Nebraska side, with about 3,300 in the MRNRD. The present practice of gathering irrigation water use data is by NRD technicians traveling extensively and manually reading the irrigation meters once a year after irrigation season. The data are then manually entered and compiled in an MS Access database and stored at the NRD offices. This manual recording and processing of irrigation flow meter readings is laborious, expensive, time consuming, and sometimes may be subject to human errors. In addition, taking readings only once a year after the irrigation season does not provide sufficient data on how and when water is used during the crop growing season in relation to crop water requirements. Consequently, water managers at the NRDs lack accurate, detailed, and timely enumeration of water quantities that can be used for planning irrigation during the irrigation season. To effectively manage its long-term water usage in a sustainable and equitable manner, the NRDs needs a more accurate and efficient method for continuous data collection. Accurate measurement and documentation of the quantities of water use can provide critical input data for improving the integrated water management and planning processes.


A centralized water use database is described as an organized collection of water use information located and maintained in one location and not spread across multiple sites. There are several advantages of a centralizing the database, including ability to access all the information in one location; information is easier to organize in a single location; searches of the database can be fast, because there is no need to check multiple locations to return results; it is easily upgradable to handle more information by simply adding servers to the database location; and a centralized database is easier to physically secure.

This project uses the most appropriate and cost effective, yet advanced technology for automated irrigation water measurements and data collection system. Irrigation fields are remotely connected to a centralized database.The system consists of transmitters installed at the bases of existing irrigation flow meters. The transmitters transmit pulses representing irrigation flow rates to stand alone telemetry units which convey the data to telemetry gateway (server). Other related water use data/variables that are measured and transmitted through the telemetry system include rainfall, potential evapotranspiration and soil moisture. This system is capable of recording and delivering real time irrigation flow and other data via the Internet to a centralized monitoring computer. This saves transport cost and valuable time by eliminating the need to drive to each meter for site reading and manually recording flow data.


The project is being implemented under the aegis of the Nebraska Agricultural Water Management Network (NAWMN; Irmak et al., 2005; 1010; 2014). The NAWMN project was established by Dr. Suat Irmak in 2005 to transfer high quality research-based information to farmers and crop consultants to enhance their decision-making process and to enhance adoption of newer tools and technologies that will enable irrigators to conserve water and energy resources and enhance crop water productivity. It has an established network of more than 1,200 farmers, crop consultants and 17 NRDs as partners/cooperators, along with UNL Extension educators, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NCRS), and irrigation districts. Currently, other NAWMN projects include research-based tools such as evapotranspiration gages (ET gages; atmometer), and soil moisture sensors installed in many parts of Nebraska in a coordinated form. Strong and efficient and effective collaboration between UNL and various state and federal water management agencies to maximize the net benefits of irrigation water management in crop production will continue to be very important in Nebraska, because many areas in the state are involved in significant management changes to conserve water. Education and new information about the use of appropriate technologies are delivered to agriculture professionals and irrigators through the NAWMN. Irrigation water metering and real-time monitoring of irrigation water implemented through automated water use database project will make it possible for greater water savings strategies to be developed on a watershed/basin scale.

Within the MRNRD automated water use database project, thirty participating farms were selected from among all registered irrigation well permits in MRNRD. Participating farms have access to monitor their own irrigation data via the internet using their home computers. With real time data delivery capability, water management staff at the NRDs and irrigators are able to monitor water-use quantities from their home computers, and set alarms (if desired) to indicate high/low usage rates, and track data by individual farm number.  When fully implemented, the benefits of this project will be a significant reduction in cost of data collection and processing. When accurate and timely irrigation flow measurement is correlated with crop water requirement, water usage by growers can be reduced by an estimated 20-40%. The quality of ground water which is a source of drinking water for over 19,000 people living in the project area will be protected through the reduction of deep percolation of irrigation water that carries nitrate nitrogen out of the root zone into the groundwater. Surface water quality will also benefit from this project as better water management will reduce irrigation water runoff that would impact streams and lakes with sediments laden with agricultural chemicals. These benefits will be achieved with training the farmers in irrigation best management practices supported by research-based data from this project. Another benefit is to help enforce compliance with the IMP ground water pumping limits

The project has already established protocol for remote data reading, transmission and archiving to a centralized database. A NRD-wide Geographic Information System (GIS) is being developed for cataloging data and irrigation system locations within MRNRD. The GIS will be used for coordination of inputs and reporting of the data on crop and soil type on a weekly and monthly basis. In addition, agricultural and environmental information pertinent to irrigation water use will be gathered from other existing sources and will be geographically referenced. Actual crop evapotranspiration and irrigation water requirements are calculated for the crops grown, and the crop water requirement are compared with the actual amount of irrigation water applied to assess the irrigation performance practiced by farmers. Educational programs are being conducted to make recommendations on improvements in irrigation management, mainly to bring irrigation water requirement, and actual water applied close to each other to minimize over- or under-irrigation.


Upcoming Events

- June 5, 2015 ( Friday) - Categories Roundtable Meeting in North Platte, Mid-Plains Community College (1101 Halligan Drive)

-June 11, 2015 (Thursday) - Categories Roundtable Meeting in Omaha, Lauritzen Garden (100 Bancroft Street)

-June 15, 2015 (Monday) - Categories Roundtable Meeting in Lincoln. Nebraska Game & Parks Commission's Outdoor Education Center (4703 N. 44th Street)

- July 13-14, 2015 (Monday - Tuesday) - 3rd Quarter Board meeting, Lied Lodge, Nebraska City

- Aungust 7, 2015 (Friday) - Lancaster County Fair - Go Green Day, Lancaster Event Center, Lincoln

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