Use of irrigation water for corn and other crops dropped 30 percent in Nebraska last year

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LINCOLN, Nebraska — Irrigators and other water users consumed 30 percent less water last year compared with 2014 across a wide swath of Nebraska, according to new data.

Water use averaged 7 inches per acre in 2014, compared with 10.1 inches the previous year, the Lincoln Journal Star reported (http://bit.ly/1L6xBQu ).

"The decline in water use is of course partly due to increased precipitation in parts of Nebraska last year compared to 2013," said Terry Martin, president of the Nebraska Association of Resources Districts, which represents the state's 23 Natural Resources Districts.

Martin also credited the NRDs for doing a good job in managing Nebraska's groundwater during dry and wet periods, which has produced a "sustainable balance over the long term."

A recent report by the U.S. Geological Survey indicates that, on average, the condition of the Ogallala Aquifer is stable and significantly healthier in Nebraska than in other states. Of the six states that overlie a significant portion of the aquifer, Nebraska has experienced the smallest decline in water since the 1950s.

The amount of water in storage in the Ogallala Aquifer in Nebraska had decreased just 0.1 percent during that time, the report said.

A depletion that small could be wiped out by a cycle of higher-than-average precipitation. A similar report by USGS showed that Nebraska in 2011 had more groundwater than it did before groundwater irrigation began in the 1950s.

The USGS report said that in 2013, the aquifer held about 2.92 billion acre-feet of water. That's enough to cover the U.S. with more than 15 inches of water.

Roughly two-thirds of the water in the Ogallala Aquifer, or 1.9 billion acre-feet, is believed to be in Nebraska.


Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

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