Spurred by increasing irrigation use and a seven-year drought, parts of Nebraska are experiencing groundwater declines of more than 30 ft., University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) monitoring finds.

Mark Burbach, assistant geoscientist in UNL's School of Natural Resources, says recording of groundwater aquifer level changes from spring 2000 to spring 2006 shows large swaths of the state with declines from 5-10 ft. to greater than 25 ft. Hardest hit are areas relying heavily on irrigated agriculture.

The groundwater level monitoring program Burbach coordinates collects aquifer water level data from a continually growing number of wells that now numbers more than 5,600. Readings from the wells are generally taken between March 1 and May 1, after aquifers have had time to recover from the previous year's irrigation season and before that year's upcoming irrigation season.

Copies of the groundwater level change maps, including historical copies dating to 1954, can be accessed at csd.unl.edu/surveyareas/gwmaparchives.asp.
-- Joe Roybal