Nebraska groundwater levels recovering from 2012 drought |

Nebraska groundwater levels recovering from 2012 drought

by Shawna Richter-Ryerson
University of Nebraska-Lincoln School of Natural Resources
This map from the 2016 Nebraska Statewide Groundwater-Level Monitoring Report shows groundwater-level changes in Nebraska from spring 2015 to spring 2016.
Courtesy image |

LINCOLN, Neb. — State groundwater levels continue to recover from the 2012 drought, according to the 2016 Nebraska Statewide Groundwater-Level Monitoring Report.

Released by the Conservation and Survey Division in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s School of Natural Resources, the report showed that groundwater levels in spring 2016 continued to rise following above-normal and near-average precipitation recorded for the year across the state. However, many parts of Nebraska still showed groundwater levels that remain 10 to 15 feet below spring 2012 conditions.

Report authors found water levels rose an average of 0.69 feet from spring 2015 to spring 2016. Significant rises were measured in the Panhandle, along the Platte River Valley and the eastern third of the state. The rest of Nebraska recorded near-average precipitation and modest, localized water level changes.

The report was authored by Aaron Young, survey geologist; Mark Burbach, environmental scientist; Leslie Howard, geographic information science and cartography manager; Michele Waszgis, research technician; Matt Joeckel, state geologist and associate director of the Conservation and Survey Division; and Susan Olafsen Lackey, research hydrogeologist.

Available online and in the Nebraska Maps and More Store in Hardin Hall, the report examines groundwater level changes, using data collected from nearly 5,000 wells across the state. It studies the rate of drawdown and recharge measured in regional wells and gives a general depiction of the current state of groundwater levels on a yearly basis. It also looks at historical trends, comparing regional water levels during extended periods of time.

In-depth maps in the report look at one-year groundwater level changes, but also examine five-year and 10-year changes, in addition to changes since the beginning of irrigation development. The maps are based on information collected by the Conservation and Survey Division, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Nebraska Natural Resources Districts and Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District.

The reports and maps are produced by the Conservation and Survey Division and have been since the 1950s. Groundwater monitoring began in Nebraska in the 1930s.

For more information on the report and groundwater-related data, visit or call (402) 472-8339. ❖

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