North-Central Section - 48th Annual Meeting (24–25 April)

Paper No. 3
Presentation Time: 8:40 AM


YOUNG, Aaron R. and BURBACH, Mark, School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE 68583,

The drought of 2012 had a profound impact on groundwater levels across Nebraska. During the summer of 2012, Nebraska experienced the hottest and driest year on record. Precipitation ranged from 12-16 inches below normal across the state, drier than the worst years of the 1930’s Dust Bowl. Greatly increased demands for irrigation water caused unprecedented one-year water-level declines of more than 20 feet in some regions. The drought exacerbated water-level declines in parts of western Nebraska with declines reaching nearly 100 feet since widespread irrigation pumping began.

Groundwater in Nebraska is inextricably linked to maintaining a strong agricultural economy, as well as providing clean safe drinking water to the state’s residents. Therefore, Nebraska has a long history of monitoring statewide groundwater-level changes dating back to 1930. Yearly maps comparing groundwater levels to predevelopment values have been produced since the early 1950’s. In previous years, groundwater levels were based on annual measurements taken in approximately 5,000 wells statewide. New technologies allow us to monitor groundwater levels in real-time, on an hourly basis at 53 sites across the state. This new technology allows us to better understand groundwater-level trends in Nebraska, and potentially limit the impact of future drought events such as the drought of 2012.