New Irrigated Acres to be Granted in High Groundwater Areas

Two river basins in the Lower Loup Natural Resources District (LLNRD) have been approved for new groundwater irrigated acres. Landowners between the North and Middle Loup River Basins in the Lower Loup Natural Resources District (LLNRD) may apply for the new irrigation. A total of 1,000 new irrigated acres will be available – 500 south of the North Loup River, 500 north of the Middle Loup River. The Beaver Creek basin, the easternmost river basin in the NRD, will not be receiving new irrigated acres due to well interference problems, long-term stream availability, and water quality issues.

The Lower Loup NRD Board of Directors approved the new acres at their May meeting. General Manager Russell Callan stated that with the ongoing drought conditions across most of the district, only those areas with consistent groundwater rises should be targeted for new groundwater development. An additional criterion was added that those acres which already had surface water irrigation rights would not qualify for an application. Callan stated that in the past, these acres had a distinct advantage as they already had all the irrigation equipment present and occupied better quality ground.

Applications for new irrigation will only be accepted Sept. 1-20, 2022. A non-refundable fee of $500 will be required with each application and only one application will be allowed per field.

A detailed map of the two basins can be found here.

NRD General Manager Russell Callan said that the new irrigation development was approved after a review of the available water in the NRD. He said that studies still showed a “surplus” in the water budget created for the approved sub-basins of the Loup River Basin. Water quality was also a consideration.

The application form requires information on the landowner and/or their contact person, field description and FSA aerial photo clearly depicting the field, number of acres of new irrigation requested, and application fee.  It can be found here.

Counties where acres will be allocated include portions of Custer, Garfield, Greeley, Howard, Loup, Sherman, and Valley. 

New surface water irrigation may also result following the approval of new groundwater acres.  Callan said that under the new Integrated Management Plan developed by the LLNRD and the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources (DNR), one surface water acre of new irrigation could also be developed for every three new groundwater irrigated acres.

NRD Assistant General Manager Tylr Naprstek said that, as in the past, applications for new irrigation will be ranked using criteria approved by the NRD board when irrigated acres were previously granted. Criteria includes stream depletion factors, status of groundwater and surface water, number of acres being developed, and soil classification.  No new irrigated acres will be granted in a community's wellhead protection area.