NU Water-Related Research in Congressional District 3

The list below shows water-related research being conducted within your district or that affects your district. They are sorted by water topic, then by primary contact's last name.

Displaying 109 records found for Congressional District 3


Topic
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name van Donk, Simon
Unit West Central Research and Extension Center
Email simon.vandonk@unl.edu
Phone 308-696-6709
Web Page http://westcentral.unl.edu/web/westcentral/svandonk
Project Information
Title Site-specific management of heterogeneous fields
Other(s) Richard Ferguson, Department of Agronomy & Horticulture, rferguson1@unl.edu; Tim Shaver, West Central Research & Extension Center, tim.shaver@unl.edu 
Description

Variable rate technology (e.g., for irrigation, fertilization, seeding) has developed rapidly, enabling agricultural producers to practice site-specific management on heterogeneous fields. However, knowledge is lacking on how to implement site-specific management; the variable rate technology is available to producers, but knowledge is needed on where, when, and how much water and/or nutrients to apply. A research project was started in 2011, studying the interactions of landscape position (topography), soil type, irrigation and nitrogen.

Impact:Producers will be able to better implement site-specific management on heterogeneous fields benefitting their economic bottom line as well as the environment.

Project Support John Deere
Project Website
Report
Current Status Continuing
Topic Climate
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Hu, Qi (Steve)
Unit School of Natural Resources
Email qhu2@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-6642
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=54
Project Information
Title Understanding Farmers' Forecast Use from Their Beliefs, Values, Social Norms, and Perceived Obstacles
Other(s) Lisa M. Pytlik Zillig, Center for Instructional Innovation, lpytlikzillig2@unl.edu; Gary D. Lynne, Agricultural Economics, glynne1@unl.edu; Alan J. Tomkins, Public Policy Center, atomkins2@unl.edu; William J. Waltman; Michael J. Hayes, School of Natural Resources, mhayes2@unl.edu; Kenneth G. Hubbard, School of Natural Resources, khubbard1@unl.edu; Ikrom Artikov; Stacey J. Hoffman, Public Policy Center, shoffman3@unl.edu; Donald A. Wilhite, School of Natural Resources, dwilhite2@unl.edu 
Description

Although the accuracy of weather and climate forecasts is continuously improving and new information retrieved from climate data is adding to the understanding of climate variation, use of the forecasts and climate information by farmers in farming decisions has changed little. This lack of change may result from knowledge barriers and psychological, social, and economic factors that undermine farmer motivation to use forecasts and climate information. According to the theory of planned behavior (TPB), the motivation to use forecasts may arise from personal attitudes, social norms, and perceived control or ability to use forecasts in specific decisions. These attributes are examined using data from a survey designed around the TPB and conducted among farming communities in Otoe, Seward and Fillmore counties. These counties were chosen to represent dryland, mixed dryland and irrigated, and mostly irrigated cropping systems typical in the western U.S. Corn Belt region.

There were three major findings:

  1. the utility and value of the forecasts for farming decisions as perceived by farmers are, on average, around 3.0 on a 0-7 scale, indicating much room to improve attitudes toward the forecast value.
  2. The use of forecasts by farmers to influence decisions is likely affected by several social groups that can provide "expert viewpoints" on forecast use.
  3. A major obstacle, next to forecast accuracy, is the perceived identity and reliability of the forecast makers. Given the rapidly increasing number of forecasts in this growing service business, the ambiguous identity of forecast providers may have left farmers confused and may have prevented them from developing both trust in forecasts and skills to use them.

These findings shed light on productive avenues for increasing the influence of forecasts, which may lead to greater farming productivity. In addition, this study establishes a set of reference points that can be used for comparisons with future studies to quantify changes in forecast use and influence.

Project Support US Department of Commerce National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Human Dimensions in Global Change Program
Project Website
Report Hu_etal_JAMC_2006.pdf
Current Status Published in the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology 2006 45:1190-1201
Topic Climate
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Irmak, Suat
Unit Biological Systems Engineering
Email sirmak2@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-4865
Web Page http://bse.unl.edu/sirmak2
Project Information
Title Dynamics of Climate Change in Central Platte Valley, Nebraska, as Indicated by Agro-meteorological Indices over 116 years (1893-2008): Preliminary Analyses
Other(s) Kabenge, Isa Mutiibwa, Denis 
Description

It has been established with a degree of confidence that the temperature of the earth’s atmosphere has increased by about 0.3 to 0.6 degrees C in the late 19th century (IPCC, 1997). Global warming can have substantial impact on agricultural production, water resources, and their interactions, by influencing microclimatic variables that drive plant physiological functions, such as surface air temperature, solar radiation, humidity, wind speed, rainfall frequency and amount, as well as hydrological balances, including evapotranspiration. Knowledge and analyses of long-term historical trends in agro-meteorological and hydrological parameters can aid in water resources design, planning, and man-agement. Historical trends in these variables can also help to relate agro-ecosystem production to climate change. We assessed the long-term trends in climatic variables. We quantified reference evapo-transpiration from solar and net radiation, vapor pressure deficit, wind speed, relative humidity, and air temperature from 1893 to 2008 using measured and estimated climatic data. Both alfalfa-reference and grass-reference evapotranspiration values were computed on a daily time step. We present historical trends in air temperature, relative humidity, preci-pitation, solar radiation, and evapotranspiration from 116 years of climatic observations and modeling results in the Central Platte Valley, Nebraska.

Conclusions from this project are:

  • Missing long-term climatic variables from 1893 to 1986 were reliably estimated for reference ET calculations.
  • Annual total rainfall amount showed an increasing trend over 116 years.
  • Both grass and alfalfa-reference ET fluctuated from year to year, but slightly decreased over the years.
  • Solar radiation slightly decreased due to increased rainfall/cloud cover.
  • Average vapour pressure deficit (VPD) did not change considerably.
  • Aridity index trend indicates a general tendency for Central City, NE area to shift toward more humid conditions, more so in the last 10 years.
Project Support
Project Website
Report
Current Status Completed
Topic Climate
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Lynne, Gary
Unit Agricultural Economics
Email glynne1@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-8281
Web Page http://agecon.unl.edu/lynne
Project Information
Title Understanding the Influence of Climate Forecasts on Farmer Decisions as Planned Behavior
Other(s) Ikrom Artikov; Stacey J. Hoffman, Public Policy Center, shoffman3@unl.edu; Lisa M. Pytlik Zillig, Center for Instructional Innovation, lpytlikzillig2@unl.edu; (Steve) Qi Hu, School of Natural Resources, qhu2@unl.edu; Alan J. Tomkins, Public Policy Center, atomkins2@unl.edu; Kenneth G. Hubbard, School of Natural Resources, khubbard1@unl.edu; Michael J. Hayes, School of Natural Resources, mhayes2@unl.edu; and William J. Waltman 
Description

Results of a set of four regression models applied to recent survey data of farmers in Otoe, Seward and Fillmore counties suggest the causes that drive farmer intentions of using weather and climate information and forecasts in farming decisions. The model results quantify the relative importance of attitude, social norm, perceived behavioral control, and financial capability in explaining the influence of climate-conditions information and short-term and long-term forecasts on agronomic, crop insurance, and crop marketing decisions.

Attitude, serving as a proxy for the utility gained from the use of such information, had the most profound positive influence on the outcome of all the decisions, followed by norms. The norms in the community, as a proxy for the utility gained from allowing oneself to be influenced by others, played a larger role in agronomic decisions than in insurance or marketing decisions. In addition, the interaction of controllability (accuracy, availability, reliability, timeliness of weather and climate information), self-efficacy (farmer ability and understanding), and general preference for control was shown to be a substantive cause. Yet control variables also have an economic side: The farm-sales variable as a measure of financial ability and motivation intensified and clarified the role of control while also enhancing the statistical robustness of the attitude and norms variables in better clarifying how they drive the influence. Overall, the integrated model of planned behavior from social psychology and derived demand from economics, that is, the "planned demand model," is more powerful than models based on either of these approaches alone. Taken together, these results suggest that the "human dimension" needs to be better recognized so as to improve effective use of climate and weather forecasts and information for farming decision making.

Project Support US Department of Commerce National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Human Dimensions in Global Change Program
Project Website
Report Lynne_Climate.pdf
Current Status Published in the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology 2006 45:1202-1214
Topic Climate
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Shulski, Martha
Unit High Plains Regional Climate Center
Email mshulski3@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-6711
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=474
Project Information
Title High Plains Regional Climate Center - Monitoring Stations
Description

As the demand for water grows, it is important to have reliable information for various assessments, such as drought, fire, and water development. In an effort to understand the surface hydrology and the water and energy interactions at the surface, scientists with the High Plains Regional Climate Center have installed a series of monitoring stations that collect temperature, humidity, solar radiation, windspeed and direction, soil temperature, precipitation and soil moisture data. These stations take hourly and daily data which can be used to calculate evapotranspiration and water balance terms. Monitoring equipment is located near Higgins Ranch, Sparks, Merritt, Ainsworth, New Port, Barta, Gudmundsens, Halsey, and Merna.

Volunteers supplement these stations by using rain gauges to monitor precipitation; volunteers enter their data online as part of the Nebraska Rainfall Assessment and Information Network (NeRAIN). In total volunteers from 40 states contribute precipitation data to the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS). The CoCoRaHS network has been incorporated into the Applied Climate Information System (ACIS), which allows resource managers, researchers, and decision-makers to better access data.

Project Support National Climatic Data Center
Project Website http://hprcc.unl.edu
Report
Current Status Continuing
Topic Crop Nutrient Use
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Ferguson, Richard
Unit Agronomy and Horticulture
Email rferguson1@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-1144
Web Page http://agronomy.unl.edu/ferguson
Project Information
Title Nutrient Management to Benefit Crops and Protect Water Quality
Other(s) Dean Krull, West Central Research and Extension Center, dkrull1@unl.edu 
Description

Ferguson is doing several projects with sites in Merrick and Hamilton counties focused on managing nitrogen applications to both benefit the crop and protect water quality.

  • The Impact of Controlled Release Urea Formulation on Nitrate Leaching Below the Root Zone of Irrigated Corn - Merrick County. This study is measuring nitrate leaching throughout the growing season on a coarse-textured soil planted to irrigated corn. Treatments include different nitrogen fertilizer sources and rates.
  • Relay Cropping Effects on Nitrate Accumulation in the Root Zone - Merrick County. This study evaluates the cumulative effect of the seed corn/winter wheat/relay-cropped soybean on nitrate accumulation in the root zone over the two year cropping system cycle.
  • In-Season Nitrogen Management Using Active Crop Canopy Sensors - Hamilton and Merrick counties. This series of studies on multiple crops (winter wheat, commercial corn, seed corn) at multiple sites investigates the use of active crop canopy sensors to control nitrogen fertilizer application during the growing season, using the crop to detect soil N supply rather than predicting soil N supply through soil sampling.
  • The Use of Polymers to Inhibit Nitrate Movement Below the Root Zone of Irrigated Corn - Merrick County. This study investigates the potential of various soil-applied polymers to retain nitrate in the root zone, preventing it from leaching into the vadose zone and eventually groundwater.
Project Support Central Platte NRD, Department of Agriculture, Agrium Inc., Georgia-Pacific, Dow AgroSciences, Monsanto Co., Nebraska Corn Board, Nebraska Environmental Trust
Project Website http://soilfertility.unl.edu/index.html
Report
Current Status Underway
Topic Crop Nutrient Use
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Schepers, Jim
Unit Agronomy and Horticulture
Email Jim.Schepers@ARS.USDA.GOV
Phone 402-472-1513
Web Page http://www.agronomy.unl.edu/newfacultystaff/directory/schepers.html
Project Information
Title Managing Nitrogen Fertilizer Applications to Protect Groundwater
Description USDA-ARS scientists have research projects near Shelton, near Giltner, and about seven miles north of Central City which deal with protecting groundwater by carefully managing nitrogen fertilizer applications to corn and wheat. One cropping system involves seed corn production, which is assumed to be environmentally unfriendly. Our strategy is to plant wheat as a scavenger crop after the seed corn is harvested. In early June, soybeans are inter-seeded into the wheat. Both wheat and soybean function as scavenger crops and essentially eliminate the potential for nitrate leaching. A component of this management strategy is to use active (no sunlight required) crop canopy sensors to monitor plant chlorophyll (greenness) and biomass (vigor) while driving through the field to determine if more nitrogen is required by wheat or corn and automatically applying additional fertilizer while at that spot in the field. These technologies allow producers to use the crop as a bio-sensor of nitrogen needs and optimize nitrogen supplied by other sources (soil organic matter, manure, irrigation water).
Project Support U.S. Department of Agriculture - Agricultural Research Service
Project Website http://www.nue.okstate.edu/
Report
Current Status n/a
Topic Crop Nutrient Use
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name van Donk, Simon
Unit West Central Research and Extension Center
Email simon.vandonk@unl.edu
Phone 308-696-6709
Web Page http://westcentral.unl.edu/web/westcentral/svandonk
Project Information
Title Fertigation with subsurface drip irrigation (SDI)
Other(s) Tim Shaver, West Central Research & Extension Center, tim.shaver@unl.edu 
Description

The project, started in 2012, has two objectives:

  • Compare different degrees of spoonfeeding nitrogen (N) through the SDI system.
  • Determine if there is an advantage to applying phosphorus (P) through the SDI system.
  • We have the following three treatments (four replications of each):

    1. N applied through the SDI system every 7 days, starting at V8 until VT. P applied preplant at a rate that equals the total P applied in treatment 3.
    2. N applied through the SDI system every 14 days, starting at V8 until VT. P applied preplant at a rate that equals the total P applied in treatment 3.
    3. P applied preplant and then application of compound fertilizer NP with SDI system, ratio N:P2O5 is 1:0.25. N applied exactly as in treatment 1: same amount, timing, and method.
    4. Objective A is addressed by comparing treatments 1 and 2, and objective B by comparing treatments 1 and 3.
Project Support Netafim
Project Website
Report
Current Status Underway
Topic Crop Nutrient Use
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Wortmann, Charles
Unit Agronomy and Horticulture
Email cwortmann2@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-2909
Web Page http://agronomy.unl.edu/wortmann
Project Information
Title Nitrogen Use Efficiency of Irrigated Corn for Three Cropping Systems in Nebraska
Other(s) Charles Shapiro, Agronomy & Horticulture, cshapiro@unl.edu; Richard Ferguson, Agronomy & Horticulture, rferguson1@unl.edu; Gary Hergert, Panhandle Research & Extension Center, ghergert1@unl.edu 
Description

Overview Nitrogen fertilizer will continue to be indispensible for meeting global food, feed, and fiber needs. Voroneyand Derry (2008) estimated that 340 million Mg yr-1 N is fixed by natural means, including lightning and biological N fixation, and 105 million Mg yr-1 is fixed by human activities, including burning of fossil fuels and N fertilizer production, with N fixation by human activities expected to continue to increase. Townsend and Howarth (2010) estimated the amount of N fixed by human activities to be about 180 million Mg yr-1, with most used as mineral fertilizer. Fertilizer N production has important environmental implications with an average of ~2.55 kg CO2 emitted per kg fertilizer N fixed and transported (Liska et al., 2009). Th e amount of N applied is associated with emission of N2O (IPCC–OECD, 1997) and N accumulation in sensitive aquatic, marine, and terrestrial ecosystems (Groffman, 2008; Malakoff , 1998). Th e challenge is to produce more grain to meet growing global needs with high NUE.

Conclusions Across diverse production environments, high corn yields can be achieved with efficient use of soil and applied N and without high risk of NO3 -N leaching to groundwater. With excellent farm management, recovery of applied fertilizer-N in high-yielding corn fields of Nebraska was well above 60 to 70% at the economically optimal nitrogen rate (EONR), resulting in low residual soil nitrate nitrogen (RSN) levels. Agronomic efficiency and crop partial factor productivity (PFP), the Nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) components most closely related to profitability of production, can also be high at EONR. Less preplant and more in-season N application may be especially important for drybean (CD) which had low recovery efficiency (RE) and much postharvest RSN compared with corn (CC) and soybean (CS). The levels of NUE achieved in our study for CC and CS far exceed current national or regional means, demonstrating the potential for high NUE with high yield corn production. Further NUE efficiency may be gained through more accurate in-season N application such as with use of the presidedress NO3 test (Andraski and Bundy, 2002) and spatial variation in N rate in response to variation in crop need, such as through use of reflectance sensors (Scharf and Lory, 2009; Barker and Sawyer, 2010; Roberts et al., 2010).

Project Support Nebraska State Legislature, Nebraska Agricultural Business Association
Project Website
Report Wortmann_NUE.pdf
Current Status Completed
Topic Crop Water Use
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Bernards, Mark
Unit Agronomy and Horticulture
Email mbernards2@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-1534
Web Page http://agronomy.unl.edu/bernards
Project Information
Title Water Use of Winter Annual Weeds
Other(s) Suat Irmak, Biological Systems Engineering, sirmak2@unl.edu 
Description

This study examines the water use of winter annual weeds. More winter annual weeds grow now than 20 years ago because of the adoption of reduced tillage systems, where the soil is not disturbed between harvest and planting. Winter annuals typically germinate in the fall, overwinter as small plants, and grow rapidly as temperatures warm in the spring; these weeds are especially well adapted to limited summer rainfall. Common winter annuals in Nebraska are downy brome, henbit, field pennycress, wild mustard, marestail (horseweed), foxtail barley, shepherdspurse, speedwell, and prickly lettuce. This project is investigating whether allowing winter annual weeds to grow too long in the spring depletes the soil of moisture that would benefit the crop later in the summer.

Estimated potential nitrogen immobilization by winter annual weeds may be calculated as:

  • 500 lbs/ac of winter annual biomass growth at planting time (this would be a relatively dense, uniform stand of weeds).
  • As a general statement, nitrogen composes approximately 3% of plant biomass.
  • $0.58/lb of nitrogen fertilizer (based on $950/ton of anhydrous ammonia)

Based on these assumptions, a dense, uniform stand of winter annuals could tie up approximately 15 lb of nitrogen per acre (500 x 0.03), or $8.70 per acre (15 x 0.58) of nitrogen intended for a corn crop.

Estimating the irrigation cost to replace water used by the same 500 lbs/A of winter annual biomass by assuming:

  • 500 lbs/A of winter annual weed biomass at planting time,
  • 800 lbs of water is required to produce 1 lb of winter annual weed biomass.
  • At $2.50 diesel fuel, applying 1 inch of irrigation water per acre would cost $9.66.

The 500 lbs of winter annual biomass would use 400,000 lbs of water per acre (500 x 800), or 47,920 gallons of water (400,000 lb x 0.1198 gal/lb). This equals 1.75 acre inches of soil water (47,920 gal /{27,158 gal/acre in}) used by these weeds. Based on a cost of $9.66 to apply 1 inch of irrigation water, it would cost approximately $17.00 per acre to replenish the water used by winter annual weeds in this scenario.

Project Support n/a
Project Website http://weedscience.unl.edu/
Report
Current Status Completed
Topic Crop Water Use
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Cassman, Ken
Unit Nebraska Center for Energy Sciences Research
Email kcassman1@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-5554
Web Page http://agronomy.unl.edu/cassman
Project Information
Title Crop Water Productivity Project
Other(s) Patricio Grassini, Agronomy and Horticulture, 
Description

This project will first establish benchmarks for irrigated corn within the Tri-Basin Natural Resources District and more broadly for the state and the High Plains. On-farm data from the Tri-Basin area will be compared with the benchmarks to estimate gaps between actual yields and optimum yields attainable with efficient water use. The goal is to adjust crop management to get greater yields with the same or a lesser amount of irrigation water. A 10% savings in irrigation water could total 90,000 acre feet and reduce annual pumping costs in Nebraska by $4 million. Farmers contributing to yield gaps will be identified in the project's first year; management advice and tools to help farmers improve yields and water productivity will be the focus of the second year.

Project Support Water, Energy and Agriculture Initiative - Nebraska Corn Board, Nebraska Soybean Board, UNL Agricultural Research Division, Nebraska Public Power District through the UNL Nebraska Center for Energy Sciences Research
Project Website
Report Grassini_Corn_Efficiency.pdf
Current Status Completed
Topic Crop Water Use
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Hergert, Gary
Unit Panhandle Research and Extension Center
Email ghergert1@unl.edu
Phone 308-632-1372
Web Page http://panhandle.unl.edu/personnel_hergert
Project Information
Title No-till Cropping Systems for Stretching Limited Irrigation Supplies
Other(s) Paul Burgener, Panhandle Research and Extension Center, pburgener2@unl.edu; Alexander Pavlista, Panhandle Research and Extension Center, apavlista1@unl.edu 
Description

A no-till limited irrigated cropping system for stretching limited irrigation supplies, including winter wheat, corn, dry beans and canola, was initiated in 2005 at the Panhandle Research and Extension Center. Under limited irrigation, less water is applied than is required to meet full evapotranspiration demand and the crop is stressed. Irrigation levels are 5, 10 and 15 inches for corn and 4, 8 and 12 inches for all other crops The goal is to manage cultural practices and irrigation timing so the resulting water stress has less of a negative impact on grain yield. The objectives of the project are to: 1) develop limited irrigation production functions for lower water-using crops that fit the panhandle using a no-tillage cropping system to maximize water use efficiency; and 2) use production function data to develop economic information on the impact of reduced water on farm income and effects on local government and agricultural businesses. The research information is necessary to provide an on-going information base to support demonstration efforts similar to the current project in the Pumpkin Creek Watershed.

Project Support North Platte Natural Resources District
Project Website
Report
Current Status Underway
Topic Crop Water Use
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Hubbard, Kenneth
Unit High Plains Regional Climate Center
Email khubbard1@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-8294
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=55
Project Information
Title Data for Estimating Crop Water Use
Other(s) Ayse Kilic, School of Natural Resources, akilic@unl.edu 
Description

The University's High Plains Regional Climate Center (HPRCC) operates automated weather monitoring stations that take the essential information for calculating the Penman and Penman-Montieth reference evapotranspiration estimates. The estimates serve as the basis for estimating crop water use and as such are an essential element of the water budget for the hydrological cycle. These stations also monitor the soil moisture at four levels (10, 25, 50, and 100 cms) in the soil profile. The HPRCC is collecting hourly data from stations in Clay Center, Curtis, Holdrege, Imperial, McCook, Red Cloud, and Smithfield.

Project Support National Climatic Data Center
Project Website http://hprcc.unl.edu
Report
Current Status Continuing
Topic Crop Water Use
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Irmak, Suat
Unit Biological Systems Engineering
Email sirmak2@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-4865
Web Page http://bse.unl.edu/sirmak2
Project Information
Title Mapping Spatial Distribution of Evapotranspiration and Other Energy Fluxes for Key Vegetation Surfaces
Other(s) Ayse Irmak, School of Natural Resources, airmak2@unl.edu; Shashi Verma, School of Natural Resources, sverma1@unl.edu; Derrel Martin, Biological Systems Engineering, dmartin2@unl.edu 
Description Efficient use of water resources in semi-arid agro-ecosystems of Nebraska is an important issue because of the rapid depletion of freshwater resources and drought conditions, and degradation of groundwater quality in recent years. Proper planning and management, and related policy decisions of water resources require accurate quantification of evapotranspiration (ET). An extensive field campaign has been initiated with the Central Platte Natural Resources District and UNL in the Central Platte River Valley to measure ET and other surface energy fluxes for various vegetation surfaces. The vegetation surfaces include, center pivot-irrigated grassland, rainfed grassland, rainfed winter wheat, center pivot-irrigated alfalfa, Phragmites australis-dominated cottonwood and willow stand plant community, irrigated maize, irrigated soybeans. A deluxe version of Bowen ratio energy balance systems are being used to measure ET and other surface energy balance components, soil moisture, and plant physiological parameters in each research site.
Project Support Central Platte Natural Resources District
Project Website
Report
Current Status Underway
Topic Crop Water Use
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name van Donk, Simon
Unit West Central Research and Extension Center
Email svandonk2@unl.edu
Phone 308-696-6709
Web Page http://westcentral.unl.edu/web/westcentral/svandonk
Project Information
Title Determining the effect of the amount and timing of irrigation on corn production, using subsurface drip irrigation (SDI)
Description

It is important to learn how to grow crops with limited amounts of water and to determine crop water use with SDI. In 2007 a field study with corn was initiated that will be continued in 2008 and 2009. The treatments are:

  • Rainfed (no irrigation)
  • 0.50 ET (meet 50% of evapotranspiration requirements) throughout the season
  • 0.75 ET throughout the season
  • 1.00 ET throughout the season
  • no irrigation at first, 1.00 ET during 2 weeks around tasseling, then no more irrigation after that
  • 0.50 ET at first, 1.00 ET during 2 weeks around tasseling, then 0.50 ET after that
  • 0.50 ET at first, 1.00 ET during 3 weeks around tasseling, then 0.50 ET after that
  • 0.50 ET at first, 1.00 ET during 4 weeks around tasseling, then 0.50 ET after that
  • 0.75 ET at first, 1.00 ET during 4 weeks around tasseling, then 0.75 ET after that

Using SDI may not only increase water use efficiency, but also nutrient use efficiency when applying nutrients through the SDI system. This study was conducted at WCREC to assess the effect of different in-season nitrogen (N) application (via SDI) timings on corn production and residual soil nitrate-nitrogen (NO3-N). We evaluated the effect of three N application timing methods at two N application rates (UNL recommended rate and the UNL rate minus 20%) on corn grain, biomass yield, and end-of-study distribution of residual soil NO3-N.

In 2006, there were no significant differences in corn grain yields between the two N application rates. In 2007, the grain yield under the UNL recommended N rate was significantly higher (3.0 bu/ac) than under the UNL-minus-20% N rate. In both years, grain yield and biomass production for the N application timing treatments were not significantly different. The lack of response to different N application timing treatments indicates that there is flexibility in N application timing for corn production under SDI. This two-year field study was published in Soil Science.

Impact: This study helps us better understand the most appropriate times to apply N with SDI (underground fertigation). If applied at inappropriate times, nitrates are not used by the crop and may leach into groundwater. If N use is minimized, the producer's cost can be minimized.

Project Support n/a
Project Website
Report SDI_Corn_Yield.pdf
Current Status Completed
Topic Crop Water Use
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name van Donk, Simon
Unit West Central Research and Extension Center
Email svandonk2@unl.edu
Phone 308-696-6709
Web Page http://westcentral.unl.edu/web/westcentral/svandonk
Project Information
Title Effect of Crop Residue on Soil Water Content and Yield of Sprinkler-irrigated Corn
Other(s) Derrel Martin, Biological Systems Engineering, dmartin1@unl.edu; Suat Irmak, Biological Systems Engineering, sirmak2@unl.edu; Steve Melvin, Extension, smelvin1@unl.edu 
Description

The magnitude of soil water savings from reduced tillage with increased crop residue is unclear. This study was initiated in 2007 at North Platte to learn more about the effect of residue on soil water content and crop yield. Preliminary results show that soil water content was not much different under residue-covered soil as compared to bare soil; however, corn yield was significantly greater in the residue covered plots. Other research shows this greater amount of corn usually needs 2-4 inches of water to grow. This amount may be considered the water "savings" due to the residue.

This study will continue and focus on "real world" tillage systems where lower amounts of residue are associated with more tillage. A tillage pass will often result in loss of water by evaporation, since typically it brings moist soil to the soil surface. In addition, long-term no-till would increase infiltration and decrease run-off; reduced overwinter evaporation and increased snow trapping would also contribute to water conservation.

Project Support Anna H. Elliott Fund, administered by the University of Nebraska Foundation
Project Website
Report Crop_Residue_Cover_Effects.pdf
Current Status Completed
Topic Crop Water Use
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Yonts, C. Dean
Unit Panhandle Research and Extension Center
Email cyonts1@unl.edu
Phone 308-632-1246
Web Page http://bse.unl.edu/faculty33
Project Information
Title Development of season long deficit irrigation strategies for sugarbeets
Description Drought continues to limit the amount of surface water that is available for irrigation throughout the Western Sugar Cooperative growing region. In some cases, growers must choose which fields or crops to irrigate because adequate water is not available. Restrictions on ground water pumping and the lack of surface water due to drought make it necessary to use available water supplies both effectively and efficiently. A research project is being conducted at Scottsbluff using sprinkler irrigation. The experiment is designed to observe the impact of water stress by comparing crop yield from nine different levels of irrigation. Irrigation treatments range from irrigation to no irrigation during the growing season.
Project Support Western Sugar Cooperative Grower Research Committee
Project Website
Report
Current Status Continuing
Topic Crop Water Use and Water Use Efficiency
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Abunyewa, Akwasi
Unit Agronomy and Horticulture
Email akwasi_abunyewa@yahoo.com
Phone
Web Page
Project Information
Title Skip-Row and Plant Population Effects on Sorghum Grain Yield
Other(s) Richard Ferguson, Agronomy and Horticulture, rferguson@unl.edu; Charles Wortmann. Agronomy and Horticulture, cwortmann2@unl.edu; Drew Lyon, Panhandle Research and Extension Center, dlyon1@unl.edu; Stephen Mason, Agronomy and Horticulture, smason1@unl.edu; Robert Klein, West Central Research and Extension Center, rklein1@unl.edu 
Description This research conducted in Clay, Gosper, Frontier, Hayes, Center, Lincoln, Red Willow, and Cheyenne Counties from 2005 to 2007 evaluated the effect of skip-row configuration and planting population on sorghum grain yield and yield stability in nonirrigated, no-till fields. Results were not consistent or significant across the sites. Skip-row planting is expected to produce higher yields when growing season water is less than 26-27 inches, with conventional planting producing higher yields in wetter areas.
Project Support U.S. Agency for International Development to the International Sorghum and Millet Collaborative Research Support Program, Scholarship Secretariat, Government of Republic of Ghana
Project Website
Report Wortmann_Sorghum.pdf
Current Status Published Agron.J. 2010 102:296-302
Topic Crop Water Use and Water Use Efficiency
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Allen, Craig (advisor)
Unit Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit
Email callen3@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-0229
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=647
Project Information
Title Agricultural Landuse Change Impacts on Bioenergy Production, Avifauna and Water Use in Nebraska's Rainwater Basin
Other(s) Daniel Uden, School of Natural Resources, daniel.uden@huskers.unl.edu; Rob Mitchell, USDA-ARS; Tim McCoy, Nebraska Game and Parks Wildlife Division; Qinfeng Guan, School of Natural Resources, qguan2@unl.edu 
Description

This study addressed how the conversion of marginally productive agricultural lands in the Rainwater Basin region of south-central Nebraska, U.S.A. to bioenergy switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) might impact ethanol production, grassland bird populations and agricultural groundwater withdrawals. This study also used multi-model inference to develop predictive models explaining annual variation in springtime wetland occurrence and flooded area in the Rainwater Basin.

Results suggest that cellulosic ethanol production from switchgrass and residual maize (Zea mays) stover within existing starch-based ethanol plant service areas is feasible at current feedstock yields, removal rates and bioconversion efficiencies. Throughout the Rainwater Basin, the replacement of marginally productive rowcrop fields with switchgrass could increase ethanol production, conserve groundwater and benefit grassland birds under novel future climatic conditions. However, converting Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) grasslands to switchgrass could be detrimental to grassland bird populations. Predictive wetland inundation models suggest that surrounding agricultural landuse, wetland hydric footprint shape complexity, and autumn and winter precipitation and temperature are strong drivers of springtime wetland occurrence and flooded area in the Rainwater Basin.

Under a modest change scenario, 350 wells on rowcrop fields converted to switchgrass could cease groundwater pumping, conserving 52,064 acre-feet of water annually (2.6% of regional pumping capacity).

Under a extreme change scenario, 737 wells on rowcrop fields converted to switchgrass could cease groundwater pumping, conserving 112,827 acre-feet of water annually (5.6% of regional pumping capacity).

In areas at higher risk for additional irrigation limitations, agriculture groundwater use under the modest change and extreme change scenarios could decrease by 9.6% and 19.1%, respectively.

Click here to read a journal article about this research

Project Support U.S. Geological Survey, Great Plains Landscape Conservation Cooperative
Project Website http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/graduatestudent-member.asp?pid=1373#tab1
Report Uden Landuse Change.pdf
Current Status Completed
Topic Crop Water Use and Water Use Efficiency
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name van Donk, Simon
Unit West Central Research and Extension Center
Email simon.vandonk@unl.edu
Phone 308-696-6709
Web Page http://westcentral.unl.edu/web/westcentral/svandonk
Project Information
Title Corn residue removal study at the West Central Water Resources Field Laboratory at Brule
Other(s) Aaron Stalker, West Central Research & Extension Center, aaron.stalker@unl.edu; Tim Shaver, West Central Research & Extension Center, tim.shaver@unl.edu 
Description

Residue removal by grazing and baling (harvesting) is widely practiced in Nebraska, affecting the water balance as discussed earlier. With high feed costs, the availability of ethanol co-products, and the potential for the bio-energy industry’s use of corn residue as an input, residue removal is expected to increase. The goal of this study is to quantify the impacts from corn residue removal by grazing and baling. Specific objectives of this interdisciplinary study are to quantify effects of corn residue removal by grazing and baling on water conservation, soil quality, grain yield, and the performance of beef cattle.

The project is being conducted on a quarter section equipped with a center pivot at the West Central Water Resources Field Laboratory at Brule. This field laboratory was recently purchased by UNL. It provides an outstanding opportunity for interdisciplinary research on large fields. There are four treatments (baling, light grazing, heavy grazing, and neither baling or grazing).

Impact: Producers will have an improved understanding of the effect of crop residue removal by grazing and baling on soil water balance, soil quality, crop yield, and cattle performance, and make more informed decisions concerning these issues. They will use their increased knowledge to increase profitability and sustainability of their operations.

Project Support University of Nebraska-Lincoln Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Project Website
Report
Current Status Continuing
Topic Drought
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Hanson, Paul
Unit School of Natural Resources
Email phanson2@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-7762
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=758
Project Information
Title Pre-Historic Drought Records from the Eastern Platte River Valley
Other(s) R. Matt Joeckel, School of Natural Resources, rjoeckel3@unl.edu; Aaron Young, School of Natural Resources, ayoung3@unl.edu 
Description Recent studies have related large-scale dune activity in the Nebraska Sandhills and elsewhere on the western Great Plains to prehistoric megadroughts. At the eastern margin of the Great Plains, however, little or no effort has been expended toward identifying the impacts and severity of these climatic events. The eastern margin of the Great Plains should be of particular interest in paleclimate studies because it represents an important biogeographic boundary that may have shifted over time. In dunes around the present confluence of the Loup and Platte Rivers near Duncan, Nebraska, optical dating contrains, for the first time, the chronology of dune activity in the central-eastern margin of the Great Plains. A total of 17 optical age estimates taken from dune sediments clearly indicate two significant periods of dune activation at 5,100 to 3,500 years ago and 850-500 years ago. These reconstructed time intervals overlap both periods of large-scale dune activity in the Nebraska Sandhills and ancient droughts identified from other paleoclimate proxy records on the western Great Plains. The agreement between results from the eastern margin of the Great Plains and data from farther west indicate that megadroughts were truly regional in their effect. In order to further test a hypothesis of geographically-widespread megadrought effects, future work will date other dune deposits in eastern Nebraska from sites along the Loup and Elkhorn Rivers, as well as dunes in east-central Kansas and western Iowa.
Project Support United States Geological Survey Statemap Program
Project Website
Report Hanson Eastern Platte Valley.pdf
Current Status Published in Geomorphology 103 (2009) 555-561
Topic Drought
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Knutson, Cody
Unit National Drought Mitigation Center
Email cknutson1@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-6718
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=430
Project Information
Title Republican River Basin Water and Drought Portal
Other(s) Mark Svoboda, NDMC, msvoboda2@unl.edu; Donna Woudenberg, NDMC, dwoudenberg2@unl.edu; Jae Ryu, jryu@uidaho.edu 
Description The National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) is developing a decision-support web portal for the Republican River Basin in Nebraska, Colorado and Kansas, with support from the managers and staff of the Lower, Middle and Upper Republican Natural Resources Districts (NRDs) in Nebraska. Under the terms of the two-year grant, the NDMC will collaborate with the NRDs to identify and compile local drought monitoring and planning information needed by resource managers in the basin, including government agencies, local community planners, and agricultural producers, and package it into a web portal. The portal will eventually be housed on the websites of the NRDs and can serve as a model for developing local applications of the National Integrated Drought Information System.
Project Support National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - Sectoral Applications Research Program
Project Website http://www.rrbdp.org
Report
Current Status Underway
Topic Economics
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Johnson, Bruce
Unit Agricultural Economics
Email bjohnson2@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-1794
Web Page http://www.agecon.unl.edu/facultystaff/Specialization/bjohnson.html
Project Information
Title Farm Real Estate Ownership Transfer Patterns in Nebraska's Panhandle Region
Other(s) Dennis M. Conley, Center for Applied Rural Innovation, dconley1@unl.edu; Gibson Nene, Ag Economics, gnene1@bigred.unl.edu; Patrick L. Krepel 
Description

The purpose of this study was to review and analyze the entire universe of relatively recent agricultural real estate activity in the multi-county, Panhandle Region of Nebraska. This region - Banner, Box Butte, Cheyenne, Dawes, Deuel, Garden, Kimball, Morrill, Scotts Bluff, Sheridan, and Sioux counties - was chosen because of the widely-held perception that a considerable number of acquisitions in recent years were by absentee owners. By investigating all recorded agricultural land transfers (filed in public records) for the period 2003 through the first half of 2006, we were able to identify the true characteristics of the market and analyze the associated implications.

This multi-year study of the market for agricultural real estate properties in the Nebraska Panhandle region provides a solid perspective of the market. Among the key findings were:

  • The rate of ownership turnover of agricultural holdings in the Nebraska Panhandle region is very thin, averaging less than 2 percent per year over the study period.
  • Out-of-state buyers have a strong presence in the agricultural land market of the region, acquiring more than half of the transferred agricultural land.
  • While out-of-state market participants were quite active on the buyer side of the market, they were also quite active on the seller side of the market. In fact, for every10 acres purchased by this group, they sold nearly 13 acres; thus leading to a net decrease in this group’s holdings of some 70,000 acres (equivalent to about one percent of the region’s total agricultural base). In short, there is no evidence to suggest a major shift in land tenure towards out-of-state owners.
  • There are a variety of reasons for acquiring agricultural land, and this was certainly in evidence in this study. Moreover, the primary reasons tended to show marked differences across the buyer classes. Among the out-of-state buyer group, investment was reported as the primary reason for purchase. In contrast, local buyers most frequently reported expansion (of existing property holdings) as their primary motive.
  • The overall dynamics of the market for agricultural real estate in the Panhandle area of the state show eclectic market conditions - markets no longer limited to local participants, but, instead, markets with a heavy presence of individuals from around the region and state and beyond. In turn, the motivations for buying and selling in the current market environment are highly variable, and are likely to remain so.
Project Support University of Nebraska Rural Initiative
Project Website http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/ruralinitiativepubs/6/
Report Johnson Farm Real Estate.pdf
Current Status Completed
Topic Economics
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Schoengold, Karina
Unit Department of Agricultural Economics
Email kschoengold2@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-2304
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=731
Project Information
Title Analysis of Potential Groundwater Trading Programs for Nebraska
Description

The goals of a recently funded project to measure the potential benefits of developing a groundwater trading market in Nebraska is discussed in this Cornhusker Economics article. Groundwater is a major component of agricultural water use. In extensive regions of the Western United States, rural agricultural economies rely entirely on groundwater. At the same time as providing water for human needs, groundwater is also an input to streams, wetlands and riparian areas that provide important ecosystem services. Ongoing groundwater pumping will deplete flows in adjacent streams, leading to potential conflict between human and environmental uses of water. In the last decades, many conflicts over transboundary allocations of water, endangered species and instream and riparian habitat have been driven by surface water-groundwater interaction. For example, claims have been filed with the United States Supreme Court over the impacts of groundwater use on flows of transboundary rivers for the Pecos River (Texas vs. New Mexico), the Arkansas River (Kansas vs. Colorado) and the Republican River (Kansas vs. Nebraska and Colorado). Groundwater has typically been viewed as private property, and its use in agriculture is generally neither regulated nor quantified precisely. However, there is growing interest in moving to systems that regulate groundwater use. The ability to trade groundwater allocations is often a part of such conversations.

Project Support National Science Foundation; USDA
Project Website
Report Groundwater_Trading_Nebraska.pdf
Current Status Underway
Topic Economics
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Thompson, Christopher
Unit Agricultural Economics
Email cthompson2@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-8602
Web Page http://wateroptimizer.unl.edu
Project Information
Title Water Trading Can Reduce the Cost and Increase the Effectiveness of Groundwater Allocation
Other(s) Raymond Supalla, Agricultural Economics, rsupalla1@unl.edu 
Description This project determined that capping the total amount of water pumped with an allocation, and then permitting allocating rights to be traded, reduces control costs because water can move to where it is most valuable. Irrigators with inefficient irrigation systems or relatively unproductive land sell all or part of their allocation rights to irrigators with more productive operations at a mutually agreed upon price that makes both parties better off with no change in total pumping. Subsequent work suggests that cap and trade markets may be able to increase the effectiveness of a groundwater allocation program as well as reduce costs. Read more about this research in Cornhusker Economics
Project Support U.S. Department of Agriculture Risk Management Agency
Project Website http://wateroptimizer.unl.edu
Report Thompson_Water_Trading.pdf
Current Status Completed
Topic Extension
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Hergert, Gary
Unit Panhandle Research and Extension Center
Email ghergert1@unl.edu
Phone 308-632-1372
Web Page http://panhandle.unl.edu/personnel_hergert
Project Information
Title Panhandle Research and Extension Center
Other(s) Jim Schild, Interim Associate Director, jschild1@unl.edu; Steve Sibray, School of Natural Resources, ssibray1@unl.edu 
Description

The Panhandle Research and Extension Center, located in the heart of western Nebraska in Scottsbluff, houses 19 faculty with appointments in agriculture and family and consumer science through the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Most of the faculty hold joint appointments in research and extension. The Cooperative Extension program in a 17-county area of the Panhandle and north-central Nebraska is also administered at the Center.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has had a presence in western Nebraska for over 85 years. In 1909, the University of Nebraska Experiment Station and the USDA jointly homesteaded a quarter section of land five miles east of Mitchell. Initial research was in the area of crop production under gravity irrigation. Research emphasis increased and soon included studies in sheep, swine, dairy, and beef production, in addition to many other crop areas. The 800 acre Experimental Range in Sioux County was deeded to the University of Nebraska by President Woodrow Wilson in 1918. Satellite agricultural laboratories at Alliance and Sidney, Nebraska were added in 1967. Through a fortunate set of circumstances, the headquarters of the Panhandle Station moved to the former Hiram Scott College campus after the state had acquired the property after the school closed in the early 1970s. The headquarters and surrounding research plots are located just north of the city of Scottsbluff. To reflect the University's involvement throughout the Panhandle, the name was officially changed to the Panhandle Research and Extension Center in 1985. The addition of the Learning Center, a joint effort of the Division of Continuing Studies and Cooperative Extension, in 1987 significantly enhanced the educational opportunities for western Nebraska residents.

Project Support Varies according to program and project - for more information see http://www.panhandle.unl.edu
Project Website http://www.panhandle.unl.edu
Report
Current Status Continuing
Topic Extension
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Hergert, Gary
Unit Panhandle Research and Extension Center
Email ghergert1@unl.edu
Phone 308-632-1372
Web Page http://panhandle.unl.edu/personnel_hergert
Project Information
Title Limited Irrigation Cropping for Conserving Water Resources in the Pumpkin Creek Watershed
Other(s) Gary Stone, Panhandle Research and Extension Center, gstone2@unl.edu; C. Dean Yonts, Panhandle Research and Extension Center, cyonts1@unl.edu; Jim Schild, Panhandle Research and Extension Center, jschild1@unl.edu 
Description

Limited irrigation and no-till cropping systems are the focus of an extension project for the Pumpkin Creek Watershed which has a yearly NRD allocation of 12-inches for well irrigation. The project objectives are to: 1) demonstrate limited irrigation and no-tillage cropping systems to maximize groundwater supplies, and 2) educate area producers, local government and agricultural businesses about different management scenarios. Drought over the past eight years has magnified the problems associated with declining ground water in Pumpkin Creek and the High Plains Aquifer and maintaining profitable agriculture while protecting surface and ground water supplies is a complex issue. The demonstration project has shown producers that they can manage with less water, but they must adapt to new cropping and no-till systems and irrigation management techniques.

June 4, 2010 CropWatch Article

Project presentation by Gary Stone at the 2008 Water Colloquium

Project Support U.S. Department of Agriculture - Natural Resources Conservation Service, North Platte Natural Resoruces District
Project Website http://panhandle.unl.edu/pumpkincreek
Report Pumpkin Creek Poster Resized 40 x 48 4-20-2010.pdf
Current Status Underway
Topic Extension
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Hergert, Gary
Unit Panhandle Research and Extension Center
Email ghergert1@unl.edu
Phone 308-632-1372
Web Page http://www.panhandle.unl.edu/personnel/personnel_hergert.htm
Project Information
Title Improving Nitrogen Management for White Wheat
Description

Winter wheat, long a mainstay of dryland agriculture in the Panhandle, is being grown on a growing number of irrigated fields because it will grow under limited irrigation and wheat prices have risen to cover irrigation costs. Nonetheless, limited irrigation and increasing fertilizer prices mean producers need to sharpen their management skills. Research is proving that soil testing, timing fertilizer applications and managing application rates are all very important to growing winter wheat.

Preliminary data from this research shows top yields come when one third of the fertilizer is applied in the fall and two-thirds at boot stage. Maximum yields have been produced when the amount of residual nitrogen in the top four feet of soil, along with the applied fertilizer, totals 200-210 pounds of nitrogen per acre. Top nitrogen rates to maximize yield have not been higher than 100 pounds per acre, which is lower than commonly used to produce high yields. These recommendations for white wheat should also apply to hard red wheat.

Project Support Nebraska Wheat Board
Project Website
Report
Current Status Underway
Topic Extension
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Hergert, Gary
Unit Panhandle Research and Extension Center
Email ghergert1@unl.edu
Phone 308-632-1372
Web Page http://panhandle.unl.edu/personnel_hergert
Project Information
Title Consumptive Water Use Maps for the Nebraska Panhandle
Other(s) Ayse Irmak, School of Natural Resources, airmak2@unl.edu; Derrel Martin, Biological Systems Engineering, dmartin1@unl.edu; Gary Stone, Panhandle Research and Extension Center, gstone2@unl.edu 
Description

The use of ground water, especially for irrigation, is becominng regulated in Nebraska, in response to several factors:

  • Recurrent droughts across the High Plains and Inter-Mountain West have magnified the problem of declining ground water resources. The High Plains Aquifer (HPA), often referred to as the Ogallala aquifer, underlies Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. Nearly 30% of the ground water used for irrigation in the United States is extracted from the HPA. A significant proportion of the aquifer underlies Nebraska. In the North Platte Basin, the drought has resulted in reduced surface water deliveries, which in turn has led to less ground water recharge and declining water tables.
  • Nebraska ground water law has evolved. Ground water levels began declining in some parts of Nebraska after extensive irrigation development began in the 1960s. LB108 in 1996 recognized the relationship between ground and surface water, and LB962 (2004) provided new regulatory measures for integrated management of ground water and surface water. Natural resources districts (NRDs) have adopted allocations for ground water pumping in some areas. The North Platte NRD has established ground water allocations of 12 acre-inches in the Pumpkin Creek Basin and 18 acre-inches in the North Platte Valley for 2009. New or expanded ground water uses are prohibited throughout the NRD unless they are offset with transfers of existing uses.

The goal of this project is to develop the expertise in remote sensing image acquisition and computing, using the METRIC(tm) procedure; to produce area-specific consumptive water use (CWU) maps; and to develop, test and demonstrate the tools that will take these CWU maps and turn them into immediately usable products for planning, managing and regulating groundwater. The CWU maps will be the primary product of this project. They are developed from LANDSAT images by applying Mapping EvapoTranspiration with High Resolution and Internalized Calibration (METRIC(tm)) algorithms.

Project Support U.S. Department of Agriculture - Natural Resources Conservation Service
Project Website http://panhandle.unl.edu/web/panhandlerec/metric
Report
Current Status Website Available
Pic 1 Project Image
Pic Caption 1 Water level changes in the High Plains Aquifer from 1980 - 1994 
Topic Extension
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Irmak, Suat
Unit Biological Systems Engineering
Email sirmak2@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-4865
Web Page http://bse.unl.edu/sirmak2
Project Information
Title South Central Agricultural Laboratory - Crop Water Use Research
Description

The South Central Agricultural Laboratory is a University of Nebraska research farm located about 15 miles east of Hastings immediately south of Highway 6. The primary focus of this farm is the development and refinement of irrigated crop production practices for Nebraska agriculture and beyond. A number of research projects are currently underway on site and in conjunction with producers in the region.

  1. Crop water use efficiency, nitrogen use efficiency, and best irrigation and fertigation management practices for subsurface-irrigated corn and soybeans.
  2. Measurement of soil evaporation under no-till, conventional (disk) till, and ridge till practices for corn using frequency-domain reflectometers under three irrigation frequencies and five irrigation levels for corn.
  3. Development of best deficit irrigation management strategies for soybeans.
  4. Center pivot irrigation engineering and evapotranspiration research: measurement of crop coefficients, evapotranspiration, and yield of corn under deficit irrigation settings.
  5. Measurement of crop water use and crop water use efficiency of eight corn hybrids under full and deficit irrigation and dryland settings.
  6. Measurement of maximum allowable crop water stress that can be imposed on corn, stress versus crop growth-yield- and available soil water relationships.
  7. Crop canopy temperature measurements to quantify crop water stress index for corn and soybeans.
  8. Measurements of hydraulics and uniformity coefficients, crop water use efficiency of a new low pressure irrigation system for soybeans.
  9. Measurement of energy fluxes and crop coefficients using high frequency techniques such as Bowen ratio energy balance system and Eddy covariance system to provide improved evapotranspiration data for corn, soybeans, and natural grassland.
  10. Measurement of non-growing (dormant season) evaporative losses to quantify annual evaporation and other water balance components.
  11. Operational characteristics of atmometers (ETgage) to measure reference evapotranspiration and Watermark granular matrix sensors to monitor soil water status and their practical applications and demonstrations for effective irrigation management.
  12. Rootworm pressure effect on crop water uptake under center pivot irrigation.
  13. On-farm demonstration of limited irrigation strategies for making maximum use of water resources. The project is being conducted in partnership with the NRCS and Nebraska Corn Board in Hordville, Geneva, York, Edgar, Ord, West Point, Schuyler, and Mead in grower fields.
Project Support Varies according to program and project
Project Website http://scal.unl.edu/
Report
Current Status Continuous
Topic Extension
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Kranz, Bill
Unit Northeast Research and Extension Center
Email wkranz1@unl.edu
Phone 402-584-3857
Web Page http://bse.unl.edu/web/bse/wkranz1
Project Information
Title Demonstration Projects and Field Tours
Other(s) Charles Shapiro, Northeast Research and Extension Center, cshapiro1@unl.edu. 
Description

A project associated with using beef manure compost on sandy soils is being conducted near Pierce and Plainview as a means of improving soil quality, using a beef production by-product in crop production and reducing commercial fertilizer application. The data collected at these two sites has been presented by Charles Shapiro at several educational meetings across northeast Nebraska. The project shows a slight improvement is some parameters, but the cost of transportation reduces the quantity of compost that can be transported and so the effect on soil physical properties is minimal, although soil phosphorus levels are increasing.

Near Pierce a project funded by the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District aims to demonstrate the impact of reducing season long water application by 10% on corn yield. At this site the farmer uses a computer control panel to speed up or slow down his center pivot automatically to apply 10% less or 10% more than his normal application, respectively. Nitrogen is being applied at three different rates to demonstrate the adequacy of the UNL Calculation Procedure.

Near Brunswick a project funded by the Upper Elkhorn Natural Resources District aims to develop improved nitrogen credit following soybeans in a corn-soybean rotation. Six nitrogen treatments and 6 different cropping sequences have been imposed to determine the nitrogen credit from soybeans on sandy soils. This project will run through the 2008 growing season. To date data suggests lower nitrogen credits on the sands than the silt loam soils in eastern Nebraska.

Project Support Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District, Upper Elkhorn Natural Resources District
Project Website
Report
Current Status Continuous
Topic Extension
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Kranz, Bill
Unit Northeast Research and Extension Center
Email wkranz1@unl.edu
Phone 402-475-3857
Web Page
Project Information
Title Northeast Research and Extension Center - Haskell Agricultural Laboratory
Other(s) Charles Shapiro, Northeast Research and Extension Center, cshapiro1@unl.edu; Dave Shelton, Northeast Research and Extension Center, dshelton2@unl.edu; Sue Lackey, Conservation and Survey, slackey1@unl.edu; Terry Mader, Haskell Ag. Lab, tmader1@unl.edu 
Description

The role of the faculty and staff in this unit is to prevent or solve problems using research based information. Faculty and staff subscribe to the notion that their programs should be high quality, ecologically sound, economically viable, socially responsible and scientifically appropriate. Learning experiences can be customized to meet the needs of a wide range of business, commodity, or governmental organizations based upon the many subject matter disciplines represented. As part of the University of Nebraska, the Northeast Center faculty and staff consider themselves to be the front door to the University in northeast Nebraska. Through well targeted training backgrounds and continuous updating via the internet and other telecommunications technologies, faculty and staff have the most current information available to help their clientele.

The Haskell Ag. Lab is a University of Nebraska research farm located 1.5 miles east of the Dixon County Fairgrounds in Concord. This 320 acre farm was donated to the University of Nebraska by the C.D. Haskell family of Laurel in 1956. A number of demonstrations and projects are going on at the Haskell Ag. Lab, including a riparian buffer strip demonstration and a study to evaluate the effect of irrigation on soybean aphid population dynamics. Other studies focus on:

Subsurface Drip Irrigation: In the spring of 2007 a new subsurface drip irrigation system was installed on a 4 acre portion of the farm with sandy loam soils. The initial objective of the research is to collect field data to document crop water use rates for new corn varieties. Specifically, the work will concentrate on varieties that have different drought resistance ratings to improve the accuracy of the information provided to producers via the High Plains Regional Climate Center. In 2007, two varieties were planted and five irrigation treatments were imposed ranging from dryland to full irrigation. The data will also be used to develop improved local crop production functions for use in the Water Optimizer spreadsheet.

Hormones in Livestock Waste: This project will evaluate the fate of both naturally occurring and synthetic hormones that are associated with solid waste harvested from beef cattle feeding facilities. The research involves: 1) tracking the fate of hormonal compounds from the feedlot into surface run-off that would make its way into a liquid storage lagoon; 2) establishing stockpiled and composted sources of the solid manure removed from the feedlot; and 3) applying stockpiled and composted manure to cropland areas under different tillage systems and native grasses. Once the manure is applied the runoff potential will be evaluated using a rainfall simulator. Research will then focus on whether plants that could be a source of food for wildlife and/or domestic animals take up the hormones. (More information about this project is available; see projects listed under Dan Snow.)

Project Support Varies according to program and project - for more information see http://nerec.unl.edu/ Hormone Project funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Project Website http://nerec.unl.edu/
Report
Current Status Continuous
Topic Extension
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Melvin, Steve
Unit West Central Research and Extension Center
Email smelvin1@unl.edu
Phone 308-367-4424
Web Page http://www.frontier.unl.edu/
Project Information
Title Irrigation Strategies Field Tour Series
Other(s) Bill Kranz, Northeast Research and Extension Center, wkranz1@unl.edu; Charles Shapiro, Northeast Research and Extension Center, cshapiro1@unl.edu; Simon Van Donk, West Central Research and Extension Center, svandonk2@unl.edu; Derrel Martin, Biological Systems Engineering, dmartin1@unl.edu 
Description

The 2009 Irrigation Strategies Field Tour Series will focus on showing farmers and crop consultants management strategies to conserve water.

The tour topics, which vary by location, include: Water Resource Update; Comparing Irrigation Energy Sources: Costs and Emissions Requirements; Monitoring Crop Water Use and Soil Moisture Status - Simple, Durable, Accurate, and Economical Tools; Water Savings with Crop Residue Management; How the Amount of Water and Nitrogen Applied with a Center Pivot Affects Crop Yield; How to Get the Most from Your Nitrogen Dollar; Where Slow Release Nitrogen Fertilization Fits into Corn Production; Variable Rate Irrigation Equipment for Center Pivots; Predicting the Last Irrigation; and How Time of Application and Amount of Water Applied Affects Crop Yield.

In 2008 eleven field demonstrations, with thirteen field tours at the sites, were conducted around the state to teach irrigation options specifically adapted for Nebraska crops, soils, and irrigation issues. No-till water savings were shown at the Curtis site and at the Ainsworth site, and a demonstration showed producers how nitrogen losses due to drainage taking soluble nitrogen below the root zone can be prevented with correct water application.

The farmers participating in 2008 reported managing an average of 1,067 acres of irrigated cropland per farm. The average reported value of the knowledge gained by the producers completing the survey was $22,215 per operation. If this average was extended to all of the 160 producers attending, the value of the education gained would be more than $3.55 million per year. The reported potential water savings of 2.2 acre-inches/acre by the farmers would be a 15-20% savings from the typical irrigation water usage and if extended to the average farm size, would be more than 31,300 acre-feet/year. The other 40 people attending the tours also reported substantial knowledge gains that will help save water and increase returns per acre. Their occupations ranged from crop consultants, agri-business representatives, government agency personnel, etc. The acre influence/manage ranged from none to over 100,000 acres. This variation makes it difficult to determine the impact of their involvement, but it is very significant as well. For example, just the eight people that listed the acres they manage/influence (38,875 acres on average) and the value of the knowledge gained ($18.78/acre on average) would result in over $5.84 million per year.

Nine of the eleven irrigation demonstration sites were in farmer fields in 2008, and two were located on the NCTA farm. The plot locations included sites near Alma, Gothenburg, Axtell, Edison, Loomis, Ainsworth, Imperial, Benkelman, Upland, and Curtis (two sites). Two sites (Curtis and Loomis) had line-source sprinkler systems installed to demonstrate irrigation strategies for corn. All sites had soil-moisture-monitoring equipment and ET gauges installed for use at the field tours and to allow the producers and crop consultants to work with the equipment. The Ainsworth site demonstrated the relationship between varying amounts of nitrogen on irrigated corn. The data generated from the sites will also be used for Extension programs in the future.

Project Support U.S. Department of Interior - Bureau of Reclamation
Project Website http://water.unl.edu/irrigationtournews
Report
Current Status Continuing
Topic Extension
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Skipton, Sharon
Unit Southeast Research and Extension Center
Email sskipton1@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-3662
Web Page http://www.southeast.unl.edu/staffdir/Skipton_Sharon
Project Information
Title Southeast Research and Extension Center
Other(s) Gary Zoubek, York County Extension, gzoubek@unl.edu 
Description Each day University of Nebraska Extension makes a difference in the lives of adults and youth. The faculty and staff in the Southeast Research and Extension Center and the 28 County Offices work to bring relevant researched based information to people in communities, towns and urban centers. Our efforts rely increasingly on partnerships with government agencies, business, industry, schools and community organizations. Working together with our partners Extension strives to strengthen the social, economic and environmental base of Nebraska's communities. Our programs must be ever-changing as Extension listens and responds to issues as they evolve. The Southeast Research and Extension District is unique because it serves both urban and rural communities Nebraska. The faculty and staff are committed to bringing the resources of the University and its research based information to the individuals and communities of Southeast Nebraska.
Project Support Varies according to program and project - for more information see http://www.southeast.unl.edu/
Project Website http://www.southeast.unl.edu/
Report
Current Status Continuous
Topic Extension
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name van Donk, Simon
Unit West Central Research and Extension Center
Email svandonk2@unl.edu
Phone 308-696-6709
Web Page http://westcentral.unl.edu/web/westcentral/svandonk
Project Information
Title West Central Research and Extension Center - Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory
Other(s) Jim Goeke, West Central Research and Extension Center, jgoeke1@unl.edu 
Description

The University of Nebraska West Central Research and Extension Center is a research and extension facility of the University of Nebraska Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources (IANR). It serves as the site for field-based research and extension involving faculty and graduate students in eight IANR departments. West Central consists of approximately 1,800 acres of which 1,100 acres are in pasture with the remaining in dryland and irrigated cropping systems. West Central delivers research-based education and information to citizens throughout the state. Extension specialists and educators are committed to excellence, conducting educational programs customized to meet the needs of Nebraskans. These educational programs, delivered via a variety of methods, are offered through federal, state and county partnership arrangements and provide research-based information and other educational resources to the 20-county West Central district and beyond.

The Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory (GSL), a 13,000 acre working ranch in the Nebraska Sandhills, is also part of West Central. GSL is situated over a relatively small portion of the High Plains Aquifer where saturated thickness exceeds 1000 feet. GSL also features a valley with a live stream, a drained valley with wet meadows, an adjacent lake, dry valleys, and many dune types so that literally all the surface and groundwater locales in the Sandhills are represented and available for research. In 2004 a U.S. Climate Reference Network station was established at GSL to provide future long-term observations of temperature and precipitation accurate enough to detect present and future climate change.

Project Support Varies according to program and project - for more information see http://www.westcentral.unl.edu
Project Website http://westcentral.unl.edu/web/gudmundsen/
Report
Current Status Continuous
Topic Groundwater
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Perera-Estrada, Hugo
Unit Agronomy and Horticulture
Email hpereaestrada2@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-6085
Web Page
Project Information
Title Modeling Groundwater Nitrate Transport Beneath a Ground Water Quality Management Area in the Central Platte Region of Nebraska
Other(s) Mary E. Exner, School of Natural Resources, mspalding1@unl.edu; Roy Spalding, Agronomy and Horticulture, rspalding1@unl.edu 
Description A Ground Water Quality Management Area (GWQMA) is being evaluated to determine the effectiveness of producer practices in reducing high nitrate levels that result from excessive N-fertilizer and irrigation water applications. The assessment of nitrate movement in the primary and secondary aquifer relies on simulating groundwater flow and contaminant transport beneath the 588 km2 Phase III GWQMA. The Platte River is in hydraulic connection with the aquifer and forms the southern boundary of the model. The northern boundary parallels the northern edge of the GWQMA. Hydraulic conductivities from test hole data, irrigation well pedigree information and nitrate concentrations from 1988 to 2003 were input to a 3-D groundwater finite difference model. A Neumann or second-type boundary condition was established for the northern and southern model boundaries. Prescribed heads (Dirichlet-type boundary condition) were imposed on the upgradient and downgradient sides of the GWQMA. The thicknesses of the primary (upper) and secondary aquifers are somewhat variable in the investigated area as are hydraulic conductivities in the secondary aquifer. The groundwater model was calibrated in the steady-state mode with hydraulic head data from 1988 to 2003. The flow path and travel times within the study area result in an approximate evaluation of the susceptibility to nitrate contamination with transport. Results are described in 2-D and 3-D graphical visualizations. Hydraulic head and water quality data from adjacent monitoring wells screened in either the primary or secondary aquifers were used to quantify nitrate transport between the aquifers.
Project Support n/a
Project Website http://www.usawaterquality.org/conferences/2009/PDF/CEAP-all/Perera-Estrada09.pdf
Report
Current Status Completed
Topic Groundwater
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Spalding, Mary Exner
Unit School of Natural Resources
Email mspalding1@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-7547
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=111
Project Information
Title Evaluation of the Effectiveness of Selected Farm Practices in Reducing Groundwater Nitrate
Other(s) Hugo Perera-Estrada, Agronomy and Horticulture, hpereaestrada2@unl.edu; Megan L. Liedte, Statistics; Roy Spalding, Agronomy and Horticulture, rspalding1@unl.edu 
Description Data from 25,961 producer reports and 1,935 irrigation wells were used to assess the effectiveness of management practices within 588 km2 of intensely irrigated corn production in the Platte River drainage in central Nebraska. The area has been regulated as a Phase III Ground Water Quality Management Area by the local Natural Resources District (NRD) for 19 years. The initial spatial analysis of the 1987 groundwater nitrate concentrations revealed an obvious concentration demarcation. Concentrations in the very contaminated northern area averaged 25.7 mg NO3-N/L while those in the southern portion averaged 9.4 mg NO3-N/L. Groundwater nitrate concentrations in the north are significantly correlated with time (r2 = 0.87) and decreased at an average annual rate of 0.24 mg NO3-N/L between 1987 and 2005. No significant concentration trend occurred in the southern area. During the 19 years the amount of N removed in grain increased at an average annual rate of 2 kg N/ha. In the north the association between the increase in N removed in grain and decrease in groundwater NO3-N concentrations is significant. The acreage converted from furrow to sprinkler irrigation increased threefold between 1988 and 2003. In the north the increase in sprinkler-irrigated acres is associated with the decrease in groundwater NO3-N concentrations. The NRD- recommended N-fertilizer rate for each corn field in the Phase III area is based upon a realistic yield goal and NRD-modified university N-fertilizer recommendation with credits for residual soil N and N available in irrigation water. From 1988 to 2003 N-fertilizer rates on 62 to 88% of the fields were within ± 56 kg N/ha (50 lb N/ha) of the NRD recommendation. The remaining fields were more likely to be fertilized at rates greater than 56 kg N/ha in excess of the recommendation than receive N at rates more than 56 kg N/ha below the NRD recommendation.
Project Support n/a
Project Website http://www.usawaterquality.org/conferences/2009/PDF/CEAP-all/Exner09.pdf
Report
Current Status Completed
Topic Groundwater
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Swinehart, James B.
Unit School of Natural Resources
Email jswinehart1@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-7529
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=487
Project Information
Title Geology and Groundwater Supplies of Box Butte County, Nebraska
Other(s) Vernon L. Souders (project lead, retired); Frank A. Smith (retired), fsmith1@unl.edu 
Description

This report describes the relationship between the geology and the groundwater supplies in Box Butte County. It also evaluates the aquifers with respect to waterbearing characteristics and groundwater in storage. It further describes recharge to and discharge from the aquifers, outlines the movement of groundwater in the county, and summarizes the changes in groundwater storage that have occurred since the advent of irrigation in the county. Brief descriptions of the topography and drainage are included. An evaluation of climatic data for Box Butte County and the Nebraska Panhandle is incorporated into this report and several observations are made about climate in relation to groundwater and the irrigation requirements of crops. Brief mention is made of the soils and agricultural activity in the county.

The report estimates that to date (1975-1976) the amount of groundwater in storage has decreased 2-3% since 1938 and perhaps 1/2 of this decrease has occurred since 1964. The most serious water level declines were immediately north of Alliance in an area where the groundwater resource is large. This area had the highest concentration of irrigation wells and is also the oldest irrigated part of the county.

The report explicitly does not answer the question, "How long will the water supply last?" Rather the authors make the point that economic considerations and social attitudes are just as important as the characteristics of local groundwater supplies in answering that question.

Project Support Upper Niobrara White Natural Resources District, U.S. Geological Survey
Project Website
Report WSP-47.pdf
Current Status Test Holes Drilled Fall 1975-Spring 1976, Report Published 1980. An electronic copy of the report is available above; A hard copy is available via Nebraska Maps and More
Topic Hydraulics
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Szilagyi, Joe
Unit School of Natural Resources
Email jszilagyi1@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-9667
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=119
Project Information
Title Identifying Cause of Declining Flows in the Republican River
Description

The Republican River, shared by three states, Colorado, Nebraska, and Kansas, has yielded depleted streamflow at the Nebraska-Kansas border for about 20 years when compared to values preceding 1970. Based on model results estimating the average annual water balance of the basin, it is concluded that the observed decline in runoff cannot be explained by changes in climatic variables over the area; rather, it is the result of the combined effects of the following human activities: crop irrigation, change in vegetative cover, water conservation practices, and construction of reservoirs and artificial ponds in the basin. These human-induced changes have one property in common: they all increase the amount of water being evaporated over the basin, thereby reducing the amount of water available to runoff.

More about this research in the Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management

Project Support UNL School of Natural Resources
Project Website n/a
Report
Current Status Completed
Topic Hydrology
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Admiraal, David
Unit Civil Engineering
Email dadmiraal2@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-8568
Web Page http://www.engineering.unl.edu/civil/faculty/DavidAdmiraal.shtml
Project Information
Title Flow Measurement of Power Plant Water Sources and Discharge Using Thermal Imaging
Description

Water flow measurements are necessary for a wide variety of environmental and energy related applications, such as thermal cooling water and irrigation flow measurements. Current water velocity and discharge measurement methods are generally costly since specially designed structures, placement of expensive equipment in non-secure locations or deployment of personnel are required. Remote sensing is a potentially viable alternative to collect accurate and reliable data of surface water properties at a relatively low cost; however, accurate methods to remotely measure velocity and discharge currently do not exist.

In order to find a relatively low cost and more effective alternative to current methods, a remote thermal imaging process was developed for this project. The remote system tracked the motion of thermal plumes and temperature variations on the surfaces of water bodies at power generation facilities. The tracked motions of the thermal structures were converted to surface velocity fields and ultimately to flow discharges. This project showed that it is feasible to accurately measure surface velocity in seeded flows, and it appears to be feasible to accurately measure surface velocity in unseeded flows, but a more robust algorithm will be important to reduce the effects of noise. The project research also showed that the coice of image interrogation algorithms and filtering can improve velo The results of this research have been valuable to power generation facilities because they allow the simultaneous measurement of water temperature and flow rates, two parameters that are monitored closely by environmental and regulatory agencies. A portion of this research was done in the Sutherland Reservoir and the Gerald Gentleman Station cooling pond.

Project Support Nebraska Public Power District through the Nebraska Center for Energy Sciences Research
Project Website http://www.ncesr.unl.edu/grants/energyresearch/7-02-21_9.pdf
Report
Current Status n/a
Topic Hydrology
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Ayers, Jerry
Unit School of Natural Resources
Email jayers1@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-0996
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=5
Project Information
Title Box Butte County / Niobrara River Numerical Groundwater Flow Model Studies
Description

The main objective of these studies was to determine the effect, if any, of large-scale regional pumping on the base flow of the Niobrara River. One study involved the construction and implementation of a groundwater-flow model for Box Butte County and the surrounding region to simulate hydrogeologic and hydraulic conditions, including groundwater extraction by large-capacity wells. The other study focused on the upper reaches of the Niobrara River to obtain estimates of stream-bed hydraulic conductivity (i.e., the ease with which water can move through pore spaces or fractures in the stream-bed) to be used as input to the modeling effort.

The groundwater-flow model was calibrated to predevelopment by primarily adjusting recharge flux through a trial-and-error process until a reasonable fit was obtained to the observed water table configuration of 1938. Once calibrated to predevelopment heads, transient simulations (i.e., simulations taking into account real-life conditions, thus modeling potential real-life changes in the basin), were run to model the change in heads due to pumping for the time period between 1938 and 2005. Results from these simulations were compared with observed heads for available years. After satisfactory results were obtained from the transient simulations, two additional scenarios were tested. These were simulations where all wells were turned off and where only those wells in Box Butte County and its proximity were active. The computer program ZONEBUDGET, which computes the water budget for user-defined zones, was run coincident with all simulations. Both head and water budget computation results were then used to determine the effect of pumping on the base flow the Niobrara River.

Based on model results, reductions in the base flow of the Niobrara River is due primarily to localized pumping effects, rather than from groundwater extraction on a regional scale. A comparison of simulated outflow values for selected reaches of the Niobrara River indicates that 1) flow characteristics in the uppermost part of the basin did not change greatly over the period of pumping indicating that base flow is not significantly reduced by large-scale pumping, 2) significant changes in base flow appear to have occurred after about 1960 in the middle and lower reaches, 3) the maximum change in flow for the middle reach due to all wells pumping is 19.6% and only 4.4% for Box Butte wells, with both maximum reductions occurring at the end of the 2005 pumping season, 4) the maximum change in flow for the lower reach is about 24.4% for all wells and only 2.5% for Box Butte wells, again, both occur at the end of the 2005 pumping season. Overall, the Niobrara River appears to be a gaining stream along most of its flow path, with the exception of the uppermost part of the basin.

The conclusion is that the affects of large-scale regional pumping appears to not impact base flow in the Niobrara River to any significant degree. Rather, localized pumping, especially where irrigation wells are situated near the river, reduces base flow on the order of 20% to 25%. For the most part, the Niobrara River valley is somewhat isolated from the extensive pumping taking place in Box Butte County. The upper reach is sufficiently distant from the pumping center that the cone of depression has little effect on the water table. Much of the middle reach transects units of the White River group that are considered to be nearly impermeable, and thus, provide a hydrogeologic barrier, preventing the northward expansion of the cone of depression. Pumping along the lower reach of the Niobrara River has a much greater influence on base flow reduction simply due to the proximity of the extraction wells to the river.

Project Support Nebraska Department of Natural Resources
Project Website http://www.dnr.state.ne.us/Publications_Studies/Box-Butte_ModelProjectCompletionReport.pdf
Report
Current Status Completed
Topic Hydrology
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Chen, Xun-Hong
Unit School of Natural Resources
Email xchen2@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-0772
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=19
Project Information
Title Investigation of Stream-Aquifer Hydrologic Relationship for Clear Creek in Polk and Butler Counties
Other(s) Weihong Dong, Jilin University; Zhaowei Wang, School of Natural Resources; Gengxin Ou, School of Natural Resources; Can Liu, School of Natural Resources, can.liu1989@huskers.unl.edu 
Description

Vertical hydraulic conductivities (Kv) of both streambed and point bars can influence water and solute exchange between streams and surrounding groundwater systems. The sediments in point bars are relatively young compared to the older sediments in the adjacent aquifers but slightly older compared to submerged streambeds. Thus, the permeability in point bar sediments can be different not only from regional aquifer but also from modern streambed. However, there is a lack of detailed studies that document spatial variability of vertical hydraulic conductivity in point bars of meandering streams. In this study, the authors proposed an in situ permeameter test method to measure vertical hydraulic conductivity of the two point bars in Clear Creek, Nebraska, USA. We compared the Kv values in streambed and adjacent point bars through 45 test locations in the two point bars and 51 test locations in the streambed.

The Kv values in the point bars were lower than those in the streambed. Kruskal–Wallis test confirmed that the Kv values from the point bars and from the channel came from two statistically different populations. Within a point bar, the Kv values were higher along the point bar edges than those from inner point bars. Grain size analysis indicated that slightly more silt and clay particles existed in sediments from inner point bars, compared to that from streambed and from locations near the point bar edges. While point bars are the deposits of the adjacent channel, the comparison of two groups of Kv values suggests that post-depositional processes had an effect on the evolution of Kv from channel to point bars in fluvial deposits.

We believed that the transport of fine particles and the gas ebullition in this gaining stream had significant effects on the distribution of Kv values in a streambed-point bar system. With the ageing of deposition in a floodplain, the permeability of point bar sediments can likely decrease due to reduced effects of the upward flow and gas ebullition.

Project Support Upper Big Blue Natural Resources District, Chinese Ministry of Education, National Natural Science Foundation of China
Project Website
Report Chen_Hydraulic_Conductivity.pdf
Current Status Completed
Pic 1 Project Image
Pic Caption 1 Map showing the study site in Clear Creek, Nebraska 
Pic 2 Project Image 2
Pic Caption 2 Schematic for the in situ permeameter test in the point bars 
Topic Hydrology
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Chen, Xun-Hong
Unit School of Natural Resources
Email xchen2@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-0772
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=19
Project Information
Title Hydrologic Connections in the Big and Little Blue River Basins
Other(s) Cheng Cheng, School of Natural Resources, ccheng2@unl.edu 
Description Over extraction of groundwater near a stream can lower stream stage and induce streamflow depletion when the stream and aquifer are hydrologically connected. The Little Blue River Basin is an area of intensive groundwater development for irrigation, and the streamflow depletion in this basin was determined by an analog model (Emery, 1966). However, the post audit of the model (Alley and Emery, 1986) suggested that the decline of water-levels was overestimated and streamflow depletion was underestimated. Therefore, it is necessary to re-evaluate stream-aquifer interactions in the basin. In this study, an area is chosen for this analysis from the basin and three main streams -- the Little Blue River, Big Sandy Creek, and Spring Creek are included. Channel sediments and structures play an important role in determining stream-aquifer interactions. Firstly, field and laboratory methods including geoprobe logging and permeameter tests are utilized to investigate the channel deposits in the three main streams in the Little Blue River Basin. Results show that channels have low hydraulic-permeable layers which reduce their hydraulic connections to the adjacent aquifers. Secondly, a groundwater flow model is constructed to identify the hydraulic properties of the aquifer and evaluate streamflow depletion under groundwater withdrawals in the study area. Modeling results indicate that streamflow depletion is very low and aquifer storage loss is the main source of groundwater pumpage.
Project Support Upper Big Blue Natural Resources Distrect, Lower Big Blue Natural Resources District, Little Blue Natural Resources District
Project Website
Report
Current Status Completed
Topic Hydrology
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Chen, Xun-Hong
Unit School of Natural Resources
Email xchen2@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-0772
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=19
Project Information
Title Hydrologic Connections in the Central Platte River Basin
Other(s) Mark E. Burbach, Conservation and Survey Division, mburbach1@unl.edu; Cheng Cheng, School of Natural Resources, ccheng2@unl.edu 
Description

The hydrologic properties of channel sediments have an important role in controlling hydrologic process in streams. This study focused on the water exchange between a stream and an aquifer induced by groundwater withdrawal, with the purpose of investigating the interbedded feature of channel sediments and to evaluate its effects on the calculation of streamflow depletion. Field work was conducted at nine study sites between Kearney and Columbus during the summers of 2005 and 2006. Direct-push techniques were used to produce electrical conductivity logs and to collect sediment cores. Permeameter tests were conducted on the sediment cores. Stream-aquifer simulation models were used to evaluate streamflow depletion for various types of channel sediments.

Sediment core samples were categorized into four groups:

  • sand and gravel,
  • sand and gravel with interbedded silt and clay layers,
  • fine sand with silt or clay layers, and
  • silt and clay with some sand and gravel.

In general coarse sediments occur in the western part of the study area, and the amount of fine sand, silt and clay increases eastward along the river. However, the sediments in the top two meters are about the same for all the sites, consisting mainly of sand and gravel.

Project Support Central Platte Natural Resources District, Upper Big Blue Natural Resources District, U.S. Geological Survey (through the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Water Center), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Project Website
Report Chen Hydrologic Connections.pdf
Current Status Published in Journal of Hydrology 2008 352:250-266
Topic Hydrology
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Chen, Xun-Hong
Unit School of Natural Resources
Email xchen2@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-0772
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=19
Project Information
Title Hydrologic Connections in the Elkhorn River Basin
Other(s) Sue Lackey, Conservation and Survey, slackey1@unl.edu 
Description This project involves investigating the hydrologic connections between streams and the adjacent aquifer systems in the Elkhorn River Basin. Researchers have used a Geoprobe direct-push technique, in-situ permeameter tests, and a thermal camera to collect data in this basin. Research has been conducted in Taylor Creek (west of the City of Madison), in Maple Creek, and two sites in the Elkhorn River near Norfolk and Meadow Grove. Ultimately this data will be used for integrated management of surface and groundwater resources.
Project Support Nebraska Department of Natural Resources, Upper Elkhorn Natural Resources District, Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District
Project Website
Report
Current Status Continuous
Pic 1 Project Image
Pic Caption 1 This image shows our work in the Elkhorn River near Meadow Grove and in Taylor Creek. 
Pic 2 Project Image 2
Pic Caption 2 Direct-push techniques used by UNL researchers for study of stream-aquifer connections in Madison County, Nebraska. 
Topic Hydrology
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Chen, Xun-Hong
Unit School of Natural Resources
Email xchen2@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-0772
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=19
Project Information
Title Groundwater Flow Model for Franklin County
Description

Dr. Chen conducted a pumping test in the alluvial aquifer near Bloomington and streambed tests in the Republican River channel. This data was used to develop a groundwater flow model in Franklin County to simulate the impact of groundwater pumping on stream flow.

Project Support n/a
Project Website
Report
Current Status Completed
Topic Hydrology
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Cheng, Cheng
Unit School of Natural Resources
Email ccheng2@unl.edu
Phone 402-472 0772
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/graduatestudent-member.asp?pid=798
Project Information
Title Statistical Distribution of Streambed Vertical Hydraulic Conductivity along the Platte River, Nebraska
Other(s) Xun-Hong Chen, School of Natural Resources, xchen2@unl.edu, Jinxi Song, Deming Wang 
Description Streambed vertical hydraulic conductivity (Kv) plays an important role in understanding and quantifying the stream-aquifer interactions. While several researchers have discussed the spatial variability of streambed horizontal hydraulic conductivity or Kv at one or several close-located sites in a river, they did not develop any statistical distribution analysis of streambed Kv at distant sites along a large river. In this paper, the statistical distribution and spatial variation of streambed Kv at 18 test sites in a 300-km reach of the Platte River in Nebraska are presented. Insitu permeameter tests using the falling-head method were carried out to calculate the streambed Kv values. Fine-grained sediments transported by two tributaries, the Loup River and the Elkhorn River, to the Platte River appear to result in lower streambed Kv values downstream of the confluences between the Platte River and the tributaries. The streambed Kv values were found to be normally distributed at nearly each test site. When the correlated Kv values were eliminated from the grid sampling plots, the remaining independent sub-datasets of streambed Kv values were still in normal distribution at each test site. Furthermore, the combined streambed Kv values upstream of the first confluence between the Platte River and the Loup River was normally distributed, which may be due to the lack of tributaries in-between and thus streambed sediments were well distributed in this reach and belonged to a single population of hydraulic conductivity values. In contrast, the combined dataset of all measurements conducted downstream of this confluence was no longer in normal distribution, presumably as a result of the mixing of different sediment sources.
Project Support Lower Platte North Natural Resources District, Program for Changjiang Scholars and Innovative Research Team in University of Ministry of Education of China
Project Website
Report Cheng_Distribution.pdf
Current Status Published in Water Resources Management DOI 10.1007/s11269-010-9698-5
Topic Hydrology
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Eisenhauer, Dean
Unit Biological Systems Engineering
Email deisenhauer1@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-1637
Web Page http://bse.unl.edu/eisenhauer1
Project Information
Title Impacts of Land Terracing and Small Ponds on Basin Water Supplies
Other(s) Jim Koelliker, Biological and Agricultural Engineering, Kansas State University, koellik@ksu.edu; Derrel Martin, Biological Systems Engineering, dmartin2@unl.edu; Phil Barnes, Biological and Agricultural Engineering, Kansas State University, lbarnes@ksu.edu; Ayse Kilic, School of Natural Resources, akilic@unl.edu 
Description

Terraces in the Republican River Basin total about 2 million acres; about 15% of the basin above Hardy, Nebraska is terraced. The goal of this project is to better understand how on-farm conservation practices, specifically terraces and small ponds, affect the basin's water supplies. Data has been collected at five dryland fields near Culbertson, Curtis, and Stamford, Nebraska and Colby and Norton, Kansas. The Kansas sites are in areas where three main tributaries of the Republican River - Beaver, Sappa, and Prairie Dog creeks - flow toward Harlan County Reservoir. The field data collected will be used to determine if computer models created for the Republican River Basin accurately measure the impact of conservation terraces and small reservoirs on the basin.

Initial research results show:

  • About 16% of land in the Republican Basin is protected by terraces, and an equal number by small reservoirs
  • About 45% of runoff into a terrace channel goes to evapotranspiration (ET), 45% goes to groundwater recharge, and 10% overtops the terraces
  • Small reservoirs retain about 90% of inflow, most of which goes to groundwater recharge - little evaporation
  • Much overland flow is loss in transmission as recharge or ET from plants in the creek

Integrated values for the basin be completed by the end of 2010. For more information, see the following slides presented at the 2010 Greater Platte Basins Symposium:

Project Support U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
Project Website http://watercenter.unl.edu/PRS/PRS2010/Presentations/Eisenhauer%20Dean.pdf
Report
Current Status Continuing
Topic Hydrology
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Harvey, F. Edwin
Unit School of Natural Resources
Email feharvey1@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-8237
Web Page http://eas.unl.edu/people/faculty_page.php?lastname=Harvey&firstname=Ed&type=ADJ
Project Information
Title Hydrologic Research in the Rainwater Basin Wetlands of South-Central Nebraska
Description

As part of this project, Harvey and his students are conducting research to unravel the hydrology of central Nebraska's Rainwater Basin wetlands. These wetlands are of international importance as habitat for millions of migratory water birds. In addition, these playa wetlands may contribute to groundwater recharge and water quality improvement. However, many of the wetlands have been drained, and those remaining suffer functional impairment due to sedimentation and pesticide and fertilizer runoff.

Most of the remaining Rainwater Basin wetlands are geographically isolated. Currently research is underway to investigate the role of these wetlands in providing groundwater recharge and water quality improvement. This is a significant environmental issue of concern because groundwater in this region is of vital importance, providing drinking and irrigation water. Moreover, groundwater levels are declining throughout much of the region. Levels of nitrate and atrazine exceed drinking water standards in some parts of the basin. Most of the remaining playa wetlands are impaired by sediment and there is an active program to restore the wetlands by removing this sediment. Study sites are located in Phelps, Kearney, Clay, Fillmore, and York counties (see map below).

Three components need to be measured when establishing a hydrologic budget for these closed basin wetlands which are surface storage, evapotranspiration (ET), and groundwater recharge. ET is calculated by the Bowen-Ratio Energy Budget (BREB) Method with the aid of a Bower Tower. Surface storage and recharge data will be aided by stilling wells and drive-point wells, respectively. Hydroperiods and plant community diversity are being determined before and after sediment removal to evaluate the impact of in-washed sediments on recharge and underlying groundwater quality. Chloride concentrations obtained from upland runoff collectors will be incorporated into the Chloride Mass-Balance Method along with precipitation and sediment chloride concentrations to obtain recharge fluxes for a wetland site.

Two Master's theses and one Bachelor's thesis have been completed as part of this project:

  • Wilson, Richard D. (2010), Evaluating Hydroperiod Response in the Rainwater Basin Wetlands of South-Central Nebraska, MS Thesis, UNL School of Natural Resources, 163 p.
  • Foster, Sarah E., (2010), Temporal and Spatial Variations of Ions, Isotopes and Agricultural Contaminants in Surface Waters and Groundwater of Nebraska’s Rainwater Basin Wetland Region, MS Thesis, UNL Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, 185 p.
Project Support U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Project Website http://snr.unl.edu/harvey/projectrainwater.htm
Report
Current Status Continuing
Pic 1 Project Image
Pic Caption 1 The Rainwater Basin area of Nebraska. 
Topic Hydrology
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Korus, Jesse
Unit Conservation and Survey Division
Email jkorus3@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-7561
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/staff-member.asp?pid=1010
Project Information
Title Eastern Nebraska Water Resources Assessment (ENWRA)
Other(s)

Paul Hanson, School of Natural Resources / Conservation and Survey Division, phanson2@unl.edu; Sue Lackey, School of Natural Resources / Conservation and Survey Divison, slackey1@unl.edu; Matt Marxsen, School of Natural Resources / Conservation and Survey Division, mmarxsen2@unl.edu

Dana Divine, ENWRA Project Coordinator, ddivine@lpsnrd.org

Visit the Nebraska Maps and More website (http://nebraskamaps.unl.edu/home.asp) to order an excellent publication that describes this project more in-depth, Bulletin 1: Eastern Nebraska Water Resources Assessment (ENWRA) Introduction to a Hydrogeological Study.

 
Description

Eastern Nebraska contains 70% of the state's population, but is most limited in terms of the state's groundwater supplies. The population in this region is expected to increase; thus the need for reliable water supplies is paramount. Natural resources districts (NRDs), charged with ground water management in Nebraska, seek to improve their management plans in response to growing populations, hydrologic drought, and new conjunctive management laws. Detailed mapping and characterization is necessary to delineate aquifers, assess their degree of hydrologic connection with streams and other aquifers, and better predict water quality and quantity.

In a collaborative effort between local, state, and federal agencies, the ENWRA project has been initiated to gain a clearer understanding of the region's groundwater and interconnected surface water resources. These resources can be difficult to characterize because of the complex geology created by past glaciations. Acquiring geologic and hydrologic data in the eastern, or glaciated, part of Nebraska requires the use of multiple, innovative techniques. Currently, little is known about which techniques are most effective and feasible. Once identified, the most effective and feasible tools will be used to provide data, interpretations, and models for improved water resources management.

The ENWRA group has established three pilot test sites for intensive study using a variety of investigative techniques. The goal of the initial work being done at the three pilot test sites is to determine the location, extent, and connectivity of aquifers with surface waters, with the hope of expanding these investigative techniques across other portions of eastern Nebraska. The pilot test sites are located near Oakland, Ashland, and Firth with each site exhibiting differing geologic conditions. The techniques that will be utilized in the study include: 1) helicopter electromagnetic (HEM) surveys; 2) ground-based geophysical surveys; 3) test hole drilling; and 4) geochemical analysis, just to name a few. So far HEM surveys were completed over approximately one township at each site. Other techniques were used to provide "ground truth" data to support the HEM interpretations.

The agencies involved in the ENWRA are:

  • Lower Platte South Natural Resources District
  • Lower Platte North Natural Resources District
  • Papio Missouri River Natural Resources District
  • Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District
  • Lewis and Clark Natural Resources District
  • Nemaha Natural Resources District
  • United States Geological Survey
  • University of Nebraska Lincoln Conservation and Survey Division
  • Nebraska Department of Natural Resources
  • Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality
Project Support Nebraska Department of Natural Resources Interrelated Water Management Plan/Program
Project Website http://www.enwra.org/
Report
Current Status HEM surveys are complete and 3-D aquifer diagrams have been prepared. Report Status: Ashland area report has been prepared and is under review and the Firth area report is being written.
Pic 1 Project Image
Pic Caption 1 Eastern Nebraska Water Resources Assessment (ENWRA) Study Sites. 
Topic Hydrology
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Lenters, John
Unit School of Natural Resources
Email jlenters2@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-9044
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=743
Project Information
Title On Basin Residence Time and Annual Hydrology: Development of Annual Hydrology Model of the Sandhills Rivers
Other(s) Erkan Istanbulluoglu, University of Washington, erkani@u.washington.edu; Durelle Scott, Virginia Tech, dscott@vt.edu; Tiejun Wang, University of Washington-Seattle, tjwang@u.washington.edu 
Description

Simple models of annual and mean annual basin runoff and evapotranspration, such as the one proposed by Budyko, are useful for investigating the relationship between river flow and climate, and planning water storage structures in basins where long term streamflow measurements are not available. Such models are often based on the assumption that annual precipitation is in balance with annual runoff and evapotranspiration, and change in water storage of the basin is negligible. In basins where groundwater is the dominant source of streamflow this assumption hardly holds.

In this study first we develop a technique to investigate groundwater residence time to identify time scales over which a simple model of mean annual runoff can be meaningfully used. The model is applied in the Niobrara and Loup Rivers. Second we develop an annual hydrology model by solving the rate of change in basin storage. The runoff component of the model is based on the well-known linear reservoir model and a parameterization to characterize runoff on saturated areas. River water storages and streamflow diverted for irrigation are included as inputs in the model. The model explained as high as 80% of the annual variability of runoff in the Niobrara River at the Sparks gage. The model underscores the importance of saturation overland flow in the basin. Finally we used the model to investigate climate change scenarios, including extreme dry and wet conditions, as well as scenarios for the Medieval Warm Period during which Sandhills were destabilized as suggested by geological evidence.

Project presentation at the 2008 Water Colloquium

Project Support National Science Foundation
Project Website
Report Lenters_Groundwater.pdf
Current Status Published "On the role of groundwater and soil texture in the regional water balance: An investigation of the Nebraska Sand Hills", USA, Water Resour. Res., 45, W10413, doi:10.1029/2009WR007733.
Topic Hydrology
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Pederson, Darryll
Unit Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
Email dpederson2@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-7563
Web Page http://eas.unl.edu/people/faculty_page.php?lastname=Pederson&firstname=Darryll&type=REG
Project Information
Title Waterfalls on the Niobrara River's Spring-fed Tributaries
Description The waterfalls on the spring-fed tributaries of the Niobrara River downstream from Valentine, Nebraska are unique in that the waterfalls are convex downstream. Groundwater discharge on either side of the waterfalls has led to significant weathering because of freeze/thaw cycles in the winter and wet/dry cycles in the summer. The water falling over the face of the falls protects them from the two weathering processes. Because the weathering rates on either side are higher than the erosion rates from falling water, the face of the falls is convex downstream. Similar waterfall face morphology occurs on the Island of Kauai where the main weathering processes are driven by vegetation and the presence of water.
Project Support National Park Service through the Great Plains Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit
Project Website http://snr.unl.edu/gpcesu/Project_library.htm
Report Waterfalls_Abstract.pdf
Current Status Completed
Topic Hydrology
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Rundquist, Donald
Unit Center for Advanced Land Management Information Technologies
Email drundquist1@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-7536
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=103
Project Information
Title Nebraska Airborne Remote Sensing Program
Other(s) Rick Perk, CHAMP Project Manager, rperk1@unl.edu; Anatoly Gitelson, gitelson@calmit.unl.edu; Sunil Narumalani, sunil@calmit.unl.edu; Merlin Lawson, mlawson@calmit.unl.edu 
Description

CALMIT has joined forces with the UNL Department of Electrical Engineering and the UNO Aviation Institute to develop an aerial remote sensing research platform known as the Nebraska Airborne Remote Sensing Program (NARSP). A specially modified Piper Saratoga aircraft is being used as the base platform for deployment of a number of research grade remote sensing instruments. CALMIT's airborne remote sensing activities are centered around a suite of instruments associated with an AISA Eagle hyperspectral imaging system. This specific program is identified as CALMIT Hyperspectral Aerial Monitoring Program (CHAMP).

This technology has contributed to several projects:

  • To determine the condition and monitor the changing quality of Nebraska's 2500+ lakes and ponds - funded by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  • To conduct a retrospective assessment of several different remote sensing platforms, with an emphasis on those remote sensing methods (e.g., airborne, Landsat, MODIS and MERIS) that most likely can be used for monitoring lakes routinely and operationally over a regional spatial extent - in collaboration with the North American Lake Management Society and the Universities of Minnesota and Wisconsin
  • To conduct remote sensing of coral communities.
  • To identify and delineate areas of noxious weeds and invasive species by using satellite imagery, hyperspectral aerial imagery, and GPS technology to aid in inventory surveys and mapping of these areas and assess the effectiveness of ongoing weed management actions.
  • To use airborne and satellite remote sensing systems to investigate and improve approaches to managing wheat streak mosaic (WSM), the most severe disease of winter wheat in the Great Plains.
Project Support Platform Development - National Science Foundation, National Aeronautics and Space Administration; specific project support noted above when possible.
Project Website calmit.unl.edu/champ/index.php
Report
Current Status Continuous
Topic Hydrology
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Wang, Tiejun
Unit School of Natural Resources
Email tiejunwang215@yahoo.com
Phone
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=945
Project Information
Title Niobrara River Flow Variability
Other(s) Erkan Istanbulluoglu, University of Washington, erkani@u.washington.edu 
Description This project develops a database for hydrological and climatological variables within the Niobrara River basin so that researchers may study flow variability in the Niobrara River and its historical changes. Analysis includes all existing and discontinued streamflow gages within the system. Surface water diversion data are also collected to relate to changes in the flow discharge. Annual water yield of the river is studied at Sparks and Verdel gages. A lumped annual water yield model is developed to identify the natural variables that control runoff. The model uses annual runoff as forcing variable, as well as water diversions as outflux from the system. The model is currently being extended to monthly time scales.
Project Support Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, National Park Service
Project Website
Report
Current Status Underway
Topic Hydrology
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Woldt, Wayne
Unit Southeast Research and Extension Center
Email wwoldt1@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-8656
Web Page http://bse.unl.edu/wwoldt1
Project Information
Title Watershed Modeling System
Description Due to the highly connected nature of the water resources in the Republican River region, the significant increase in groundwater utilization for irrigation is suspected of inducing changes to the surface water system. These changes are exacerbated by drought conditions. Therefore, a greater understanding of the complex surface-groundwater system is very important for better management of water resources in the area. This project involves developing a watershed modeling system capable of simulating subsurface, overland, and stream flow in a fully integrated manner. This model considers various hydrogeological properties and therefore provides a more real picture of groundwater and surface water flow patterns and connections in the region. (This modeling system is different than traditional models such as ModFlow.) The objective of the research is to study the interaction processes of groundwater and surface water flow. The second objective is to progress toward simulating large-scale watersheds and significant amounts of data with increased time efficiency.
Project Support n/a
Project Website
Report
Current Status Underway
Topic Invasive Species
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Allen, Craig (advisor)
Unit Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit
Email callen3@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-0229
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=647
Project Information
Title The Effect of Common Reed (Phragmites australis) on River Otter (Lontra canadensis) Habitat Use
Other(s) Amy Williams, amy_ruth18@hotmail.com; Sam Wilson, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, sam.wilson@nebraska.gov 
Description The river otter (Lontra canadensis) is a threatened species in Nebraska and little is known about its local ecology. The recent invasion of the Platte River by the common reed (Phragmites australis) has altered the riverscape and could have negative effects on otters. Since the reintroduction of river otters to several of Nebraska's river basins beginning in the late 1980's, there have been no quantitative studies examining the status of the population or habitat use of river otters in the state. The recent invasion of P. australis in the Big Bend region of the Platte River has made the need to fill this knowledge gap more critical. We are examining the effects of P. australis on river otters by determining if otters use river ways dominated by P.australis or den in areas of P. australis more or less than expected relative to availability. Sixteen otters were trapped, radio tagged, and tracked between 2006 and 2009. 517 den/resting locations were identified, 127 of which were unique locations. Den/resting site habitat use was compared to availability to determine if otters were using P. australis in proportion to availability. Females use unique sites in P. australis more than expected but males do not. When all locations were analyzed, both males and female used P. australis in proportion to availability. P. australis provides cover for females and is likely used for resting locations when traveling with pups. Information on otter abundance and habitat use from this study will support the creation and implementation of a state river otter management plan and ensure the persistence of a viable otter population in Nebraska.

Project Support

Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
Project Website http://snr.unl.edu/necoopunit/research.main.html#river_otters
Report
Current Status Completed
Topic Invasive Species
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Huddle, Julie
Unit School of Natural Resources
Email jhuddle2@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-8556
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/vitae/faculty/2011/huddle-julie-cv-11012010.pdf
Project Information
Title Effects of eastern redcedar on the hydrology of cottonwood stands in the Republican River Basin
Other(s) Tala Awada, School of Natural Resources, tawada2@unl.edu, Derrel Martin, Biological Systems Engineering, dmartin1@unl.edu, Xinhua Zhou, School of Natural Resources, xzhou3@kumc.edu, Sue Ellen Pegg, School of Natural Resources, spegg2@unl.edu, Scott Josiah, Nebraska Forest Service, sjosiah2@unl.edu 
Description

This study examines how much water trees use in different forests. In riparian forests, invasive plants affect the quantity of water infiltrating and running off land by intercepting water and transpiring water. Sap flow sensors are being used to monitor how removal of invasive tree species affects tree-level and stand-level evapotranspiration. In addition, vegetation transects will reveal how understory plants respond to invasive tree removal. Researchers are gathering data using eddy covariance towers and satellite images. Study results will be used to test whether removing eastern Red Cedar and Russian Olive Trees can significantly improve water yields.

In regards to the understory response following the removal of invasive woody species from a cottonwood riparian forest, this research shows that:

  • Removing invasive species increased the frequency of invasive form and warm season grasses.
  • Species diversity increased when invasive tree species were removed.
  • Changes in understory species following thinning were most pronounced where eastern redcedars were removed.
  • Light level differences observed under different canopy types likely explain differences in understory species response to thinning. This will be examined in future studies.
Project Support Burlington Northern Endowment, Nebraska Department of Natural Resources, Nebraska Natural Resources Districts in the Republican River Valley, Southwest Nebraska Resource Conservation and Development (RCandD) Council Inc., Nebraska Southwest Weed Management Area
Project Website
Report Photographs of Understory.pdf
Current Status Published in the Great Plains Research 2011 21: 49-71
Topic Invasive Species
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Lenters, John
Unit School of Natural Resources
Email jlenters2@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-9044
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=743
Project Information
Title Seasonal energy and water balance of a (Phragmites australis) dominated wetland in the Republican River basin of south-central Nebraska
Other(s) Erkan Istanbulluoglu, University of Washington, erkani@u.washington.edu; Durelle Scott, Virginia Tech University, dscott@vt.edu; Kyle Herrman, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, kyle.herrman@uwsp.edu; Ayse Kilic, School of Natural Resources, akilic@unl.edu, Dean Eisenhauer, Biological Systems Engineering, deaneisenhauer@unl.edu 
Description

Climate and vegetation strongly influence the water cycle on local to regional scales. A change in the surface energy and water balance, especially in dry climatic regions, can have a significant impact on local water availability and, therefore, water resource management. The purpose of this study is to quantify the energy and water balance of a riparian wetland in a subhumid region of the central US, as well as the role of seasonal climate variability and vegetation phenology. The site is located in the Republican River basin in south-central Nebraska, where decreases in streamflow have been observed in recent decades. In an effort to reduce consumptive water use from evapotranspiration (ET), and thereby reclaim surface water, invasive species such as Phragmites australis have been removed throughout the riparian corridor of the river basin. In this study, we used energy/water balance monitoring stations, a Large Aperture Scintillometer (LAS), and numerous water and soil temperature probes to determine the energy and water balance during the 2009 growing season (April 11-October 3).

More about this research in the Journal of Hydrology

Project Support Nebraska Environmental Trust, University of Nebraska Rural Initiative
Project Website http://www.geosciences.unl.edu/riparian/
Report
Current Status Completed
Pic 1 Project Image
Pic Caption 1 Wetland map showing the land cover classification and locations of the LAS transmitter, LAS receiver and two meteorological stations. 
Topic Invasive Species
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Narumalani, Sunil
Unit School of Natural Resources
Email snarumalani1@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-9842
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=85
Project Information
Title Detecting and Mapping Four Invasive Species along the Floodplain of North Platte River, Nebraska
Other(s) Deepak R. Mishra, University of New Orleans, dmishra@uno.edu; Robert G. Wilson, Panhandle Research and Extension Center, rwilson1@unl.edu; Patrick Reece, Panhandle Research and Extension Center, preece1@unl.edu; Ann Kohler 
Description

This research focused on the dominant invasive plant species in Nebraska, including saltcedar, Russian olive, Canada thistle, and musk thistle. Once established, these invasive species can have several harmful effects, such as increasing (1) soil salinity, which reduces productivity of native plants and results in the loss of natural habitat (Pimentel et al. 2000); (2) soil water consumption to such an extent that it can dry up streams and reduce water levels of rivers and lakes (Friederici 1995); (3) risk of wildfires during summer (Brooks et al. 2004); and (4) chances of flooding during high-intensity rainfall by impeding stream flow (Zavaleta 2000).

The study area was a corridor approximately 1.6 km wide and 257 km long located along the North Platte River starting at the Wyoming/Nebraska border and ending at Kingsley Dam on Lake McConaughy. The elevation ranges from 1,244 m above sea level at the Wyoming/Nebraska state line to 943 m, in an area below Kingsley Dam. The Platte River is generally considered to be a braided river with a network of small channels separated by large and small islands and sandbars. It has been noted that historically the banks of the Platte River were rarely covered with trees but instead with grasses and sedges (Farrar 1983; Kuzelka et al. 1993). Some of the islands were wooded, and willows (Salix exigua) and cottonwood (Populus deltoids) trees were observed. In the 1930s, Russian olive was introduced into the region for conservation plantings. It has rapidly spread along the Platte River, replacing willows and cottonwoods. More recently, saltcedar has also invaded the study area from the west and, along with Russian olive, occupies riverbanks, sandbars, and islands. Saltcedar seedlings are tolerant of shade and thrive in a variety of soil and moisture conditions, but especially saline soils.

When examined from a comprehensive perspective for the entire study area (22 flight lines) from the Nebraska/Wyoming Border to Kingsley Dam, invasive plants covered an area of 139,632 ha, of which 1,965 hectares (2% of the total area) were identified as saltcedar and 1,478 hectares (1.1% of the total area) as Russian olive. The three mixed classes occupied approximately 5% of the total area. These numbers indicate the severity of invasion of nonnative species along the North Platte River. Nonnative species such as saltcedar have been known to consume large quantities of water, and because western Nebraska is frequently affected by drought, mapping and monitoring their spread along the river corridor can aid in the implementation of biological, mechanical, chemical, or some combination of these control mechanisms to minimize the effects on water resources.

Effective control and management of an invasive species begins with its detection and inventory. The ability to detect invasive plants with the use of remotely sensed data has improved with new sensors, enhanced technology (e.g., hyperspectral), and innovative image processing techniques. However, datasets that have the highest likelihood of detecting invasive plants come with high fiscal and technical considerations. When compared with low-resolution multispectral data, airborne hyperspectral data is most appropriate for detecting subtle changes in the reflectance properties of various vegetation species present in the landscape (Narumalani et al. 2006).

Project Support n/a
Project Website http://snr.unl.edu/invasives/file/northplatte_sunil_deepak.ppt
Report Narumalani_Platte.pdf
Current Status Published in Weed Technology 2009 23:99-107
Topic Invasive Species
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Narumalani, Sunil
Unit School of Natural Resources
Email snarumalani1@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-9842
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=85
Project Information
Title Predicting Potential Occurrence and Spread of Invasive Plant Species along the North Platte River, Nebraska
Other(s) Justin D. Hoffman; Deepak R. Mishra, University of New Orleans, dmishra@uno.edu; Paul Merani; Robert G. Wilson, Panhandle Research and Extension Center, rwilson1@unl.edu 
Description

Riparian habitats are important components of an ecosystem; however, their hydrology combined with anthropogenic effects facilitates the establishment and spread of invasive plant species. Researchers used a maximum-entropy predictive habitat model, MAXENT, to predict the distributions of five invasive plant species (Canada thistle, musk thistle, Russian olive, phragmites, and saltcedar) along the North Platte River in Nebraska. Projections for each species were highly accurate. Researchers studied a 1-mile wide buffer on either side of the North Platte River channel from the Wyoming-Nebraska state line to approximately 3.2 km west of North Platte. Field work was conducted in September 2005, March 2006, and May 2007.

Researchers found different distribution patterns among the species. Russian olive and thistles closely resembled each other in extent and variable contribution. While conducting field work, researchers repeatedly documented thistles below Russian olives or in close proximity. In addition, both species were commonly documented at varying distances from the river. Conversely, researchers found phragmites and saltcedar to have a more restricted potential distribution. Saltcedar was common throughout most of the study area except in the extreme eastern parts. The eastern edge of the study area approaches the distribution limit of saltcedar in Nebraska (Kaul et al. 2006; Wilson and Knezevic 2006). Phragmites was common in the eastern parts of the study area; however, there was low to no probability of phragmites occurrence in the west. Potential suitable habitat diminished just west of Lake MaConaughy, suggesting researchers have identified the western distributional limit of phragmites on the North Platte River and in Nebraska.

Variable contribution among all species was similar, with elevation and distance from river as the two most important variables for all species. The most probable underlying variable explaining the significance of distance from river is soil moisture. In most cases soil moisture will decrease as distance from river increases. Although soil moisture may be more directly responsible for the observed plant distributions, this variable is not easily estimated over large areas, unlike distance from river. There was a large disparity of elevation in the study area. The importance of elevation may be the result of the locations of the survey sites, underlying mechanistic variables, or both. Collection sites occurred at the elevational extremes. For Russian olive, thistle, and saltcedar, the lack of presence data at median elevations most likely caused MAXENT to weight that variable higher than others. The predictive model of phragmites also determined elevation to be the most important variable. Unlike the other species, no phragmites was documented at the western site. It is possible that phragmites can not survive at higher elevations because of colder temperatures found at these sites. However, Saltonstall (2002) found invasive haplotypes of phragmites occurring at high elevations in Wyoming and Utah, which does not support the previous hypothesis. A more likely explanation is that phragmities is in the process of expanding its range westward on the North Platte River and has not had enough time to disperse to the western parts of the river.

The results of this study have management implications for these species along the North Platte River, as well as other river ecosystems. For example, the variables used in this study resulted in excellent predictions of the distributions of invasive plants. As mentioned above, some of these variables (i.e., elevation and distance from river) may have underlying mechanistic factors that are more accurate measures of plant distributions. However, one of the utilities of the current approach is that these variables are easy to access and generate in a geographic information systems environment and useful predictions can be derived, which is not the case for some of their potential underlying factors. Also, predictive modeling shows limited areas of suitable habitat in the western parts of the North Platte River, primarily along the river channel. Researchers suggest that extensive monitoring be conducted in these areas to identify any populations that may occur there. Identification and control of these populations will significantly slow or stop the westward spread of phragmites. Also, any populations of phragmites that occur in the west should be relatively small and isolated making control of these populations more feasible. Similarly, abundances of saltcedar decreased in the eastern parts of the North Platte River. As with phragmites in the west, a control strategy should be used for saltcedar while populations are small and manageable. In addition, both species were found to occur close to the river bed, thus by monitoring the riverbanks and sandbars, the majority of populations could be identified within a very limited search area. Russian olive and thistles occur throughout the study area. Researchers suggest that control of these species should take place in areas with high probability of occurrence to prevent establishment of monotypic stands of each species.

Project Support U.S. Department of Agriculture - Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
Project Website
Report Narumalani_Invasive.pdf
Current Status Published in Invasive Plant Science and Management 2008 1:359-367
Topic Livestock Manure Management
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Gilley, John E.
Unit Biological Systems Engineering
Email john.gilley@ars.usda.gov
Phone 402-472-2975
Web Page http://watercenter.unl.edu/FacultyProfiles/Pages/GilleyJohn.asp
Project Information
Title Long-term effects of manure application on soil properties and nutrient transport
Description

Manure can be effectively used for crop production and soil improvement because it contains nutrients and organic matter. Soil physical properties such as infiltration, aggregation, and bulk density can be improved by long-term manure application. Changes in soil properties can have a substantial impact on runoff, soil loss, and nutrient transport from cropland areas receiving long-term manure application. If the beneficial effects of long-term manure application can be quantified, its value as a nutrient source and soil amendment can be enhanced. However, the application of manure at rates that exceed crop nutrient requirements can result in phosphorus (P) accumulation in the soil and increased nutrient transport by overland flow. If the long-term effects of manure application on nutrient transport by overland flow can be estimated, remediation measures to minimize nutrient delivery to surface waters can be implemented.

The objectives of this project were to: 1) determine the long-term effects of manure application on selected soil properties, and 2) measure the effects of long-term manure application on nutrient transport by overland flow. Duplicate soil samples (32) were collected from the top 0.1 m of selected plots of a long-term (since 1953) manure and fertilizer application field experiment and later placed in 1m2 soil pans. Manure and fertilizer were mixed with 16 of the soil samples, while no manure was applied to the other 16 soil samples (long-term effect). Simulated rainfall was then applied to the soil during initial and wet (24 hours later) events. A second study was conducted to assemble and summarize historical information quantifying the effects of manure application on runoff and soil loss resulting from natural precipitation events. In a third study, composted beef cattle manure or inorganic fertilizer were added over a four-year period to meet P or nitrogen (N) requirements for corn and incorporated following application. Field tests were then conducted to identify the residual effects of compost applications on nutrients in runoff after four years of corn production following the last compost application.

The long term (since 1953) application of manure to a Tripp sandy loam soil located near Mitchell, Nebraska increased soil P, NO3-N, and EC levels in the top 0.1 m of the soil profile. After four years of corn production following the last N-based compost application to a Sharpsburg silty clay loam soil located near Mead, Nebraska, soil P content, EC, and pH were significantly greater than the check plots. For selected locations at which manure was added over several years, runoff was reduced from 2 to 62%, and soil loss decreased from 15 to 65% compared to non-manured sites. Runoff and soil loss values were reduced substantially as long-term manure application rates increased. The long-term application of manure had no significant effect on runoff concentrations of dissolved P, particulate P and total P when the last manure application was the previous year. When the last manure application was the previous year, similar concentrations of dissolved P, particulate P, and total P were measured on the manure and no-manure treatments. Four years following the last application of compost to meet P or N requirements for corn, concentrations and total amounts of P in runoff were similar on compost and inorganic fertilizer plots. The long-term application of manure at rates required to meet crop nutrient requirements did not increase P transport to levels greater than those occurring on inorganic fertilizer plots.

Project Support n/a
Project Website
Report
Current Status n/a
Topic Pollution Prevention
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Comfort, Steve
Unit School of Natural Resources
Email scomfort1@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-1502
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=21
Project Information
Title Using Slow-Release Permanganate Candles to Remove TCE From a Low Permeable Aquifer at a Former Landfill
Other(s) Mark Christenson, School of Natural Resources; Ann Kambhu, Department of Civil Engineering 
Description

Past disposal of industrial solvents into unregulated landfills is a significant source of groundwater contamination. In 2009, we began investigating a former unregulated landfill with known trichloroethene (TCE) contamination. Our objective was to pinpoint the location of the plume and treat the TCE using in situ chemical oxidation (ISCO).

While the characteristics of the low permeable aquifer at the Cozad site dictates that additional field monitoring will be needed for several years to fully determine the efficacy of the slow release candles, initial field results and the supporting laboratory results presented indicate that slow-release permanganate candles may be an effective means of treating chlorinated solvents in low permeable zones. Potential advantages to the candle technology are that they negate the need for specialized equipment (mixing trailer, pumps, hoses, etc.), curtail health and safety issues associated with handling liquid oxidants, and when used in a barrier design, could potentially provide a long-term solution for controlling contaminant migration.

Project Support United States Environmental Protection Agency, University of Nebraska School of Natural Resources and Water Science Laboratory
Project Website n/a
Report Comfort_TCE.pdf
Current Status Completed
Topic Production Agriculture
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Burbach, Mark
Unit School of Natural Resources
Email mburbach1@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-8210
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=268
Project Information
Title Personality Characteristics and Conservation Tillage: Understanding Farmers to Improve Surface Water Quality in Tuttle Creek Lake, Kansas
Other(s) Courtney Quinn 
Description

Farmers chose to adopt conservation practices for varying reasons. There are many models of pro-environmental behaviors that include personal, physical, economic, and institutional factors. Models of farmer behavior that include personal factors often only examine farmers' education level and years farming. Testing additional factors would greatly improve our understanding of the relationship between farmers' knowledge, skills, and abilities and conservation tillage. This study examines three potential variables in relation to farmers' conservation tillage practices that benefit surface water quality, environmental attitude, work motivation, and moral reasoning about the environment.

This study focused on the Tuttle Creek Watershed, specifically Gage and Jefferson counties in southeast Nebraska and Washington and Marshall counties in northeast Kansas. Land use in this watershed is primarily agricultural, with approximately 72% in corn, soybean, grain sorghum or other crops, 10% in pastureland, and 10% in woodland. Herbicides are used extensively to control agricultural weeds. Soil infiltration rates in this area range from moderate to very slow. As a consequence, most soils have a moderate to very high potential of transporting contaminants to surface waters. As the base of the watershed, Tuttle Creek Reservoir is listed as impaired for siltation, eutrophication, atrazine and alachlor. Extremely high suspended solids and nutrient loads enter the reservoir during storm events and excessive siltation has occurred in the upper third of the original conservation pool reducing its volume by approximately 30%. In November 2007 4000 mail surveys were delivered to farmers in the study area. Data on the farmers' tillage practices and the personality variables, hypothesized to be antecedents to tillage practices, were collected. 505 surveys were used for this analysis.

Survey results suggest that farmers motivated by tangible rewards, personal standards, and a strong sense of purpose are likely to use conservation tillage. Farmers who obtained a higher degree of education have learned either a concern for the environment or the ability to apply newer conservation technologies. Farmers with higher sales also use more conservation practices. This suggests that income allows farmers to implement practices that may have high initial start-up costs. Farmers who earn a high percentage of their family income from farming also use more conservation practices. A heavy dependence on the success of the farm may cause farmers to have a long-term outlook and see the benefits of using conservation.

The negative relationship between use of conservation tillage and Self-concept External motivation suggests that efforts to encourage adoption of no-till practices need to target the entire farming community. The negative correlation between age and use of conservation tillage and between years farming and use of conservation tillage suggests than younger farmers, and those who have been farming for fewer years, are more interested and willing to use conservation practices. This may be because younger farmers have grown up during a time of concern for the natural environment. Younger farmers may also be less set in their ways and therefore willing to try new practices.

Other personal characteristics should be studied in addition to those studied as part of this project. For example, researchers should investigate whether farmers experience empathy with downstream residents and the distance of concern farmers consider when making decisions. Farmers' need for control, and their perceived ability to create desired change should be researched to discover if correlations or causations exist with likelihood to use conservation tillage.

Project Support USDA
Project Website
Report Burbach_Personality.pdf
Current Status Published in Great Plains Research 2008 Vol. 18:1, 103-114
Topic Production Agriculture
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Ferguson, Richard
Unit Agronomy and Horticulture
Email rferguson1@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-1144
Web Page http://agronomy.unl.edu/ferguson
Project Information
Title Interactions of Water and Nitrogen Supply for Irrigated Corn across Field Landscapes
Other(s) Tim Shaver, West Central Research & Extension Center, tim.shaver@unl.edu; Nicholas Ward, Agronomy & Horticulture, ward.nick.c@gmail.com; Suat Irmak, Biological Systems Engineering, sirmak2@unl.edu; Simon van Donk, West Central Research & Extension Center, simon.vandonk@unl.edu; Daran Rudnick, Agronomy & Horticulture, daran.rudnick@huskers.unl.edu; Brian Wienhold, Agronomy & Horticulture, bwienhold1@unl.edu 
Description

Water and nitrogen (N) supply to a crop can interact throughout the growing season to influence yield potential. The increasing availability of variable rate irrigation systems to growers in irrigated regions, along with existing capacity for variable rate fertilization, provides the opportunity for temporal and spatial management of inputs of water and nitrogen. This study was initiated in 2011 to explore interactions of landscape and soil features with water and N inputs on grain yield and water and N use efficiency. Five field locations were used across Nebraska to evaluate the effects of landscape variation, climate, and capacity for temporal and spatial management of water and N. Preliminary results in 2011 showed that at sites with significant topographic variation these features influenced grain yield as much as the rate of irrigation water or nitrogen fertilizer, indicating the importance of considering spatial variation in landscape features when optimizing rates and timing of water and nitrogen.

Five field locations were used for the study in 2011. Two sites were at University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) research laboratories the South Central Agricultural Laboratory (SCAL) and the Brule Water Resources Laboratory (BWL). Three sites were located on cooperating producer’s fields one in Morrill County, and two in Hamilton County. The UNL research sites included more detailed measurements, and inclusion of treatments that were more yield-limiting than those on producer fields. Locations were situated across a rainfall and soils gradient in Nebraska, allowing evaluation of site-specific water/N management interactions over a range of annual rainfall and soil types. Three of the sites included the use of variable rate irrigation systems and two of the sites implemented canopy sensor-based in-season N treatments.

Project Support John Deere
Project Website
Report Ferguson_Landscape.pdf
Current Status Completed
Pic 1 Project Image
Pic Caption 1 Study locations in 2011, with precipitation gradient across Nebraska 
Topic Production Agriculture
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Supalla, Raymond
Unit Agricultural Economics
Email rsupalla1@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-1792
Web Page http://agecon.unl.edu/supalla
Project Information
Title Economic and State Budget Cost of Reducing the Consumptive Use of Irrigation Water in the Platte and the Republican Basins
Other(s) Brian McMullen, Agricultural Economics, bmcmullen2@unl.edu 
Description

The terms of the Cooperative Agreement for the Platte Basin and the Supreme Court settlement decision for the Republican Basin both require that Nebraska reduce its consumptive use of irrigation water. This analysis evaluated the economic and the budgetary costs of meeting these requirements. Both the on-farm and off-farm costs were evaluated for both land retirement and water allocation programs, implemented in several different ways, over three alternative time periods, 10, 25 and 50 years.

The on-farm economic costs were defined as the change in net farm income associated with less irrigation. Off-farm economic costs were defined as the statewide change in household income resulting from changes in irrigation, as the effects ripple through the Nebraska economy. Budgetary costs were defined as the cost to the state budget (taxpayers) of policies which compensate irrigators for reducing consumptive use are implemented. Statewide economic costs were found to be lower for land retirement than for allocation programs, assuming the same total change in consumptive use. Total budgetary costs depended primarily on: where the irrigation reductions occurred (proximity to river); on how long the program was continued (number of years), and on whether irrigation was reduced voluntarily with incentives, or by regulation, or by some combination of regulation and incentives. It was found that policy makers could minimize the cost of reducing consumptive use from irrigation and augmenting stream flow by purchasing rather than leasing irrigation rights, by using a regulatory rather than a willing seller incentive approach, and by reducing irrigation at locations close to the river.

More on this research in a UNL Agricultural Economics working paper

Project Support n/a
Project Website
Report
Current Status Completed
Topic Production Agriculture
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Yonts, C. Dean
Unit Panhandle Research and Extension Center
Email cyonts1@unl.edu
Phone 308-632-1246
Web Page http://bse.unl.edu/faculty/Yonts.shtml
Project Information
Title Crop Management Workshop, August 20-21, 2008
Other(s) Jim Schild, jschild@unlnotes.unl.edu; John Smith, jasmith@unlnotes.unl.edu; Bob Wilson, rwilson@unlnotes.unl.edu; Carlos Urrea, currea2@unl.edu; Gary Hein, ghein@unlnotes.unl.edu; Gary Hergert, ghergert@unlnotes.unl.edu; and Bob Harveson, rharveso@unlnotes.unl.edu, Panhandle Research and Extension Center 
Description Crop management workshops are designed to assist the industry in gaining knowledge in production of crops grown in the Panhandle of Nebraska. Regional insurance adjusters from the High Plains region will be given training on dry edible bean production over a two day period in the following areas: effect of plant water stress, growth and development, soil compaction, harvesting, herbicide carryover, impact of drought, insect damage, nutrient requirements, disease management, crop adjustment procedures and quality adjustment factors.
Project Support National Crop Insurance Service
Project Website
Report
Current Status Completed
Topic Production Agriculture
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Yonts, C. Dean
Unit Panhandle Research and Extension Center
Email cyonts1@unl.edu
Phone 308-632-1246
Web Page http://bse.unl.edu/faculty33
Project Information
Title Conserving soil water using a no-till system with a crop rotation of sugarbeets, dry beans and corn
Other(s) John A. Smith, Panhandle Research and Extension Center, jasmith@unlnotes.unl.edu 
Description Use of no-till production systems for sugarbeets and dry edible beans is very low in western Nebraska. On the other hand, a significant part of the corn acreage in this region does use no-tillage, or a practice that is very close to no-tillage. There are several real and perceived reasons for this difference in acreage of no-tillage productions systems between these crops. Reasons often given include difficulty of precision planting, need for mechanical incorporation of herbicides, multiple cultivations for weed control, furrowing for furrow irrigation and for guidance for harvest operations, providing a ridge for harvest of dry beans, and the "tillage-like actions" of harvest equipment. With the availability of glyphosate resistant corn and sugarbeets, weed control becomes substantially easier. The experiment is designed to observe two different crop rotations - corn, dry beans, corn, sugarbeets and corn, corn, drybeans. Tillage systems being tested include conventional plow, zone till and no till. The primary objective of this project is to determine the amount of soil water conserved by no-till crop production compared to current production practices with a crop rotation of sugarbeets, dry edible beans, and corn. The secondary purpose is to measure effectiveness of planting and weed control systems for no-till dry beans and sugarbeets, and direct harvest of no-till dry edible beans using the newest available production technologies.
Project Support Anna Elliott Fund
Project Website
Report
Current Status Continuing
Topic Property Values
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Shultz, Steve
Unit UNO Real Estate Research Center
Email sshultz@mail.unomaha.edu
Phone 402-554-2810
Web Page http://cba.unomaha.edu/dir/HomePageBio.cfm?id=347
Project Information
Title Ongoing UNO/UNL Research on the Determinants of Agricultural Land Values: How Irrigation Contributes to Land Values in Western and Central Nebraska
Other(s) Nick Schmitz, UNO Real Estate Research Center 
Description

Hedonic (mass appraisal) land valuation models were estimated in the Republican and Platte watersheds of Central and Western Nebraska. These models are based on assumption that the buyers and sellers of agricultural land are able to accurately assess the value of irrigation when negotiating sale contract prices, and that irrigation equipment can be distinguished from land and irrigation values. Alternative models were estimated using various combinations of explanatory variables (all measured at the parcel level of analysis). These include: soil productivity measures, topography precipitation, parcel size, cropping patterns, topography, aquifer thickness, well pumping capacity, distances to elevators and towns, and irrigation systems.

The location of all agricultural land sales statewide (2000-2007) and estimated irrigation values in the Platte and Republican Watersheds were identified. Preliminary mass appraisal model results were summarized in tables and the locations of retired irrigation parcels in the Republican Watershed (as part of a 2006 NE DNR and USDA Pilot Program) were identified. The value of irrigated cropland is on average $615/acre (this is the value of irrigated cropland only and does not include the value dryland corners within pivot systems). As well, there are numerous areas and site-specific parcels within the watershed with both lower and higher irrigation values. In fact, we have calculated irrigation values for all of the natural resource districts in the Republican watershed: they range from $488/acre to $948/acre. These estimates are still considered 'preliminary' and may be subject to revision. These irrigation values also do not account for premiums above and beyond marginal market values that farmers and landowners will likely require to willingly participate in future irrigation retirement programs.

More on this research in a journal of the Western Agricultural Economics Association

Project Support U.S. Department of Agriculture Water and Watershed Program
Project Website
Report
Current Status Complete (up to 2007)
Topic Recreation
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Laing, Kim (Graduate Student)
Unit School of Natural Resources
Email kmeuhe1@unl.edu
Phone n/a
Web Page
Project Information
Title Assess Extent of Disturbance by Canoeists in Tributaries to the Niobrara National Scenic River
Other(s) Kyle Hoagland, School of Natural Resources, khoagland1@unl.edu 
Description

The Niobrara is a rich and unique ecosystem. Because it is relatively swift and shallow along this reach, the Niobrara is also a popular locale for tens of thousands of canoeists each year. Frequent bottom trampling and bank destabilization can result in a variety of short and long-term changes, including bottom substrate degradation, higher levels of drift including premature drift of aquatic larvae, increased turbidity and sedimentation, and the elimination of sensitive species.

The overall goal of this project is to assess the extent of disturbance by canoeists in tributaries to the Niobrara National Scenic River and its overall impact on stream ecosystem health. This assessment will be used to evaluate resource management practices in these unique habitats, while also serving as a basis for future comparisons to assess habitat degradation.

Ten tributaries, located along the south side of the Niobrara River, were sampled each month May through September. The tributaries were divided into five streams that were potentially impacted from visitors, located upstream, and five streams that were known to have no visitors. A mini-surber sampler was used to collect invertebrates from upstream sections of the tributaries (above the waterfalls with no visitors) and from downstream sections, below the waterfalls. Current velocity, depth, width, and distance from the edge of the tributary were recorded at each location. Water temperature, pH and conductivity were measured and a water sample taken to measure total nitrogen, total phosphorus and turbidity. In June, July and August visitor information was collected by volunteers at each potentially impacted tributary. Each volunteer counted the number of times the tributary was disturbed. This information, along with daily visitor use collected by Fort Niobrara, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was used to calculate the amount of disturbance occurring at each location.

Project Support n/a
Project Website
Report
Current Status Completed
Topic Recreation
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Shultz, Steve
Unit UNO Real Estate Research Center
Email sshultz@mail.unomaha.edu
Phone 402-554-2810
Web Page http://cba.unomaha.edu/dir/HomePageBio.cfm?id=347
Project Information
Title Economic and Social Values of Recreation on the Niobrara National Scenic River
Description

The goal of this project is to generate objective and accurate economic data and analyses that will allow the State of Nebraska to evaluate an in-stream appropriation on the Niobrara River for recreation purposes. Nebraska in-stream flow laws and regulations as stated in statute 46-2,116 specify that an in-stream appropriation must be in the public interest on the basis of:

  • The econmic, social, and environmental value of the in-stream use or uses including, but not limited to, recreation, fish and wildlife, induced recharge for municipal water systems, and water quality maintenance; and
  • The economic, social, and environmental value of reasonably foreseeable alternative out-of-stream uses of water that will be foregone or accorded junior status if the appropriation is granted.

The economic value of in-stream uses for recreation will involve estimates of both direct expenditures by river recreationists and the value of their use of the Niobrara Scenic River for boating and tubing using a travel cost model. The economic value of reasonably forseeable alternative out-of-stream uses will be determined by estimating the change in economic value of irrigation in the Niobrara River watershed based upon agricultural land sales from 2000 to 2007. The societal values associated with in-stream flows of and recreation on the Niobrara River will also be calculated using a telephone survey.

Project presentation at the 2008 Water Colloquium

Project Support Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
Project Website
Report Niobrara_Values.pdf
Current Status Completed
Topic Riparian Vegetation Water Use
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Irmak, Suat
Unit Biological Systems Engineering
Email sirmak2@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-4865
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=47
Project Information
Title Evapotranspiration crop coefficients for mixed riparian plant community and transpiration crop coefficients for Common reed, Cottonwood and Peach-leaf willow in the Platte River Basin, Nebraska-USA
Other(s) Isa Kabenge, Biological Systems Engineering, ikabenge2@unlnotes.unl.edu; Daran Rudnick, Biological Systems Engineering; Stevan Knezevic, Northeast Research and Extension Center, sknezevic2@unl.edu; Duane Woodward, Central Platte Natural Resource District, woodward@cpnrd.org; Milt Moravek, Central Platte Natural Resource District 
Description

Application of two-step approach of evapotranspiration (ET) crop coefficients (Kc) to approximate a very complex process of actual evapotranspiration (ETa) for field crops has been practiced by water management community. However, the use of Kc, and in particular the concept of growing degree days (GDD) to estimate Kc, have not been sufficiently studied for estimation of evaporative losses from riparian vegetation. Our study is one of the first to develop evapotranspiration crop coefficient (KcET) curves for mixed riparian vegetation and transpiration (TRP) crop coefficients (KcTRP) for individual riparian species as a function GDD through extensive field campaigns conducted in 2009 and 2010 in the Platte River Basin in central Nebraska, USA.

Project Support
Project Website
Report Irmak_Platte_River_ET.pdf
Current Status Completed
Pic 1 Project Image
Pic Caption 1 Location of the Bowen ratio energy balance system (BREBS) at the Common reed-dominated Cottonwood and Peach-leaf willow riparian plant community in the Platte River Basin in central Nebraska, USA. 
Topic Riparian Vegetation Water Use
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Kilic, Ayse
Unit Center for Advanced Land Management Information Technologies
Email akilic@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-5351
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=860
Project Information
Title Estimating Riparian Water Use: An Application of Remote Sensing
Description The goal of this project is to quantify riparian evapotranspiration (ET) by utilzing satellite and air-borne remote sensing data on selected watersheds in the North Platte River. The results will be used to develop guidelines on riparian water use.
Project Support UNL Office of Research Layman Award
Project Website
Report
Current Status Completed
Topic Riparian Vegetation Water Use
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Lenters, John
Unit School of Natural Resources
Email jlenters2@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-9044
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=743
Project Information
Title Riparian Vegetation Impacts on Water Quantity, Quality, and Stream Ecology
Other(s) Kyle Herrman, University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point, Kyle.Herrman@uwsp.edu; Erkan Istanbulluoglu, University of Washington, erkani@u.washington.edu; Durelle Scott, Virginia Tech, dscott@vt.edu; Tiejun Wang, University of Washington-Seattle, tjwang@u.washington.edu 
Description

The State of Nebraska is attempting to aggressively manage invasive species along the riparian corridors of the Platte River and the Republican River. Although the impetus for the removal is different, in both basins state agencies and weed management districts are using herbicides and mechanical removal to control a combination of invasive species led by Phragmites australis (common reed), Tamarix ramosissima Ledeb. (saltcedar), and Elaeagnus angustifolia L. (Russian olive).

Along the central stretch of the Platte River, invasive species have overtaken sandbars and side channels which are invaluable wildlife habitat. In an attempt to reclaim this habitat for bird species such as the Piping Plover and Whooping Crane, the state is removing large stretches of common reed. Along the Republican River, the state is removing all invasive species to reduce riparian evapotranspiration. By reducing evapotranspiration the hope is to increase stream flow along the Republican River. Since 2007 invasive species along the mainstem of the river and along the banks of the Harlan Reservoir have been sprayed with herbicide or mechanically removed.

In order to understand the impacts of removing invasive species along riparian corridors researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and collaborators at other universities have developed a multi-faceted research project.

On the Republican River basin researchers are directly measuring evapotranspiration rates from native and invasive plants. Researchers are also using a regional water balance model to estimate the water savings that could be achieved by removing all invasive species within the basin.

On the Platte River researchers are monitoring water quality changes associated with a controlled herbicide treatment of common reed. Using a combination of in situ instruments and grab samplers researchers are determining the impacts of species removal. Other experiments are being conducted to measure how invasive species alter biogeochemical processes and sediment characterization.

Visit the project website for more information, including real-time meteorological data from a riparian wetland near the Republican River, real-time water quality data at a stream site on the Platte River, and quarterly project reports.

Project Support Nebraska Environmental Trust, University of Nebraska Rural Initiative, University of Nebraska Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Project Website http://www.geosciences.unl.edu/riparian/
Report
Current Status

Final Report on Riparian Vegetation Impacts on Water Quantity, Quality, and Stream Ecology

Topic Riparian Vegetation Water Use
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Martin, Derrel
Unit Biological Systems Engineering
Email dmartin2@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-1586
Web Page http://bse.unl.edu/faculty/Martin.shtml
Project Information
Title Estimation of Evapotranspiration from Riparian and Invasive Species Using Remote Sensing and in Situ Measurements in the Republican River Basin
Other(s) Ayse Kilic, School of Natural Resources, akilic@unl.edu; Suat Irmak, Biological Systems Engineering, sirmak2@unl.edu; Shashi Verma, School of Natural Resources, sverma1@unl.edu; Tala Awada, School of Natural Resources, tawada2@unl.edu 
Description

This study is using a combination of techniques including remote sensing, to develop reliable estimates of evapotranspiration from riparian zones and determine varying water use rates for typical and invasive species in the Republican River Basin. The project will provide datasets of evapotranspiration and the annual water balance for a range of conditions in the riparian areas along the Republican River. Specific deliverables of the project include:

  • Map of surface energy fluxes, including evapotranspiration, across three watersheds in the Lower, Middle and Upper Republican Natural Resources Districts for different spatial and temporal (i.e. daily, seasonal and annual) scales.
  • Map of riparian vegetation classification across three watersheds using high resolution remote-sensing and ground truth observations.
  • Comparison of water use and water availability on riparian vegetation and adjacent treated research area by measuring evapotranspiration rates, using various methods.
  • Data for planners and decision-makers to develop water management policies.
  • Extension and education materials to inform and communicate results to stakeholders.
Project Support Nebraska Department of Natural Resources
Project Website
Report
Current Status Underway
Topic Sandhills Studies and Modeling
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Awada, Tala
Unit School of Natural Resources
Email tawada2@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-8483
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=4
Project Information
Title Soil Moisture Use by Grasses and Trees in the Sandhills
Other(s) Kathleen Eggemeyer, Texas State University, keggemeyer@txstate.edu; Ed Harvey, School of Natural Resources, feharvey1@unl.edu; David Wedin, School of Natural Resources, dwedin1@unl.edu; Xinhua Zhou, School of Natural Resources, xzhou2@unl.edu; C. William Zanner, University of Minnesota, bzanner@umn.edu 
Description

The Sandhills are well known as Nebraska's grassland region. The continued presence of relatively shallow-rooted grasses in the Sandhills have contributed to making this region a major recharge zone for the High Plains Aquifer. Unfortunately, trees are encroaching on the Sandhills, potentially threatening the region's recharge capacity.

This study was conducted in the Nebraska National Forest at Halsey (located in Blaine and Thomas counties). Researchers established a network of soil moisture monitoring sites to observe how relatively shallow-rooted grasses (i.e., little bluestem and switchgrass) and deep-rooted trees (i.e., ponderosa pine and eastern red cedar) deplete soil moisture at depths up to 10 feet. The study confirmed that both grasses use mostly shallow soil water. Deeper switchgrass roots may serve as an important survival mechanism for the plant during drought, but overall switchgrass's deep roots contribute only a small fraction to the plant's total water uptake.

On the other hand, the study showed that both trees "exhibited significant plasticity in sources of water uptake." During winter both trees drew soil water from below 0.9 m depth and in spring from the upper soil profile (0.05 - 0.5 m). During the growing season (May-August), the pine drew water mostly from the upper and mid soil profiles (0.05 - 0.5 and 0.5-0.9 m). The cedar gradually moved from the upper to the mid soil profile, thus being less responsive to precipitation but taking advantage of available soil moisture.

Overall the study showed that ponderosa pines and eastern red cedars have been able to encroach into the Sandhills because the trees "acquired water outside of the growing season, competed for shallow water with grasses during spring and early summer, and depended on water drawn from deeper in the soil profile during drought."

For more information about this topic, see David Wedin's presentation, "Was Weaver Wrong? Rooting Depths and Soil Moisture Depletion in the Nebraska Sandhills".

Project Support McIntire Stennis Forest Research Funds - USDA, Interdisciplinary Research Grant, ARD-University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Center for Great Plains Studies, UNL Water Sciences Lab, US Forest Service
Project Website
Report Awada_Sandhills.pdf
Current Status Published in Tree Physiology 29:157-169
Topic Sandhills Studies and Modeling
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Billesbach, Dave
Unit Biological Systems Engineering
Email dbillesbach1@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-7961
Web Page http://bse.unl.edu/faculty/Billesbach.shtml
Project Information
Title Effects of Precipitation and Groundwater on Grassland Productivity in the Nebraska Sand Hills
Other(s) Tim Arkebauer, Agronomy and Horticulture, tarkebauer1@unl.edu 
Description

In the Sand Hills the depth to groundwater greatly affects the types and amounts of grasses that grow there, suggesting a strong linkage between groundwater, precipitation, and grass productivity. Wet meadows are where the water rable is usually less than a meter below the surface and make up about 10% of the Sand Hills land area. Dry valleys are where the water table never intersects the land surface and usually lies several meters below; dry valleys also make up about 10% of the Sand Hills land area. Except for lakes and wetlands (about 2% of the land area), the rest of the Sand Hills is dunal uplands where the water table is many meters below the surface.

It has long been assumed that the Sand Hills are a recharge zone for the underlying aquifer and that local precipitation more than accounts for the water usage of surface vegetation. This research measures how much water enters the Sand Hills ecosystem (via precipitation) and how much water leaves the land surface - the Sand Hills surface water balance. Research shows that Sand Hills surface water is lost primarily through evapotranspiration, or surface water evaporation and plant transpiration, with the relative size of each varying greatly depending on the time of year and other factors, such as drought. Research also shows that: 1) the most water is transferred to the atmosphere from wet meadows, followed by dry valleys and dunal uplands; 2) the close proximity to the aquifer acts as a buffer to both wet meadows and dry valleys, but not to dunal uplands; and 3) groundwater buffering is most affected by regional rather than local precipitation events. The long-term goal of this project is to study and better understand the relationship between water and the vegetative land cover (carbon).

Project Support n/a
Project Website
Report Billesbach_SandHills_Water.pdf
Current Status Continuing
Topic Sandhills Studies and Modeling
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Efting, Aris
Unit School of Natural Resources
Email aefting@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-3471
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=226
Project Information
Title Determining Toxic Algal Bloom Frequency in Nebraska Lakes
Description Research has been conducted in the Sandhills to determine whether or not there has been an increase in toxic algal blooms. Four different lakes were cored to identify the lakes' history of toxic algal blooms and determine whether there is an increase in toxin concentrations post 1950.
Project Support Layman Fund
Project Website
Report
Current Status Underway
Topic Sandhills Studies and Modeling
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Hu, Qi (Steve)
Unit School of Natural Resources
Email qhu2@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-6642
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=54
Project Information
Title The Missing Term in Surface Water Balance in the Great Plains
Other(s) Jinsheng You, School of Natural Resources, jyou2@unl.edu 
Description

It has been recognized that the surface water budget derived from the NCEP-NCAR Reanalysis and other existing climatic datasets is not in balance in the Great Plains region. This imbalance is shown by large surface evaporation which cannot be supported by source terms in the budget equation. This large surface evaporation is always appearing in calculations from the surface and soil moisture conditions specified in those datasets. This imbalance poses serious uncertainties to diagnostic and modeling studies of energy and carbon balances and to our understanding of atmospheric/climatic processes in this region. An effort aiming at identifying sources causing the water budget imbalance has been underway and some preliminary results have been obtained. A main source of the imbalance arises from the calculation of the surface evaporation. It was found that the surface and soil water specified in those datasets (developed from integrations of both observations and model simulations) is biased because of inaccurate descriptions of the soil properties, particularly the sandy soils in the Nebraska Sand Hills. A revised model with more accurate descriptions of the soils and soil hydrology in the Sand Hills has produced a balance surface water budget in the Sand Hills.

Project presentation at the 2008 Water Colloquium

Project Support Department of Commerce - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Project Website
Report
Current Status
Topic Sandhills Studies and Modeling
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Hubbard, Kenneth
Unit High Plains Regional Climate Center
Email khubbard1@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-8294
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=55
Project Information
Title Assessment of Soil Moisture Dynamics of the Nebraska Sandhills Using Long-Term Measurements and a Hydrology Model
Other(s) Venkataramana Sridhar; David Wedin, School of Natural Resources, dwedin1@unl.edu 
Description Soil moisture, evapotranspiration, and other major water balance components were investigated for six Nebraska Sandhills locations during a 6 year period (1998-2004) using a hydrological model. Annual precipitation in the study period ranged from 330 to 580 mm. Soil moisture was measured continuously at 10, 25, 50, and 100 cm depth at each site. Model estimates of surface (0-30 cm), subsurface (30-91 cm), and root zone (0-122 cm) soil moisture were generally well correlated with observed soil moisture. The correlations were poorest for the surface layer, where soil moisture values fluctuated sharply, and best for the root zone as a whole. Modeled annual estimates of evapotranspiration and drainage beneath the rooting zone showed large differences between sites and between years. Despite the Sandhills' relatively homogeneous vegetation and soils, the high spatiotemporal variability of major water balance components suggest an active interaction among various hydrological processes in response to precipitation in this semiarid region.
Project Support National Science Foundation, High Plains Regional Climate Center
Project Website
Report Hubbard06.pdf
Current Status Published in Journal of Irrigation and Drainage Engineering, September/October 2006, 463-473
Topic Sandhills Studies and Modeling
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Loope, David
Unit Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
Email dloope1@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-2647
Web Page http://eas.unl.edu/people/faculty_page.php?lastname=Loope&firstname=David&type=REG
Project Information
Title Large Wind Shift on the Great Plains During the Medieval Warm Period
Other(s) Venkataramana Sridhar; James Swinehart, School of Natural Resources, jswinehart1@unl.edu; Joseph Mason, University of Wisconsin, Madison, mason@geography.wisc.edu; Robert Oglesby, School of Natural Resources, roglesby2@unl.edu; Clinton Rowe, Geosciences, crowe1@unl.edu 
Description Spring-Summer winds from the south move moist air from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Plains. Growing season rainfall sustains prairie grasses that keep large dunes in the Nebraska Sandhills immobile. Longitudinal dunes built during the Medieval Warm Period (800-100 yBP) record the last major period of sand mobility. These dunes are oriented NW-SE and are composed of cross-strata with bi-polar dip directions. The trend and structure of these dunes directly record a prolonged drought that was initiated and sustained by a historically unprecedented shift of Spring-Summer atmospheric circulation over the Plains: southerly flow of moist air was replaced by dry southwesterly flow.
Project Support National Science Foundation
Project Website
Report Loope Wind Shift.pdf
Current Status Published in Science November 2007 318:1284-1286
Topic Sandhills Studies and Modeling
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Wedin, Dave
Unit School of Natural Resources
Email dwedin1@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-9608
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=128
Project Information
Title Sand Hills Biocomplexity Project
Other(s) Vitaly Zlotnik, Department of Geosciences, vzlotnik1@unl.edu. 
Description

The Sand Hills, the largest sand dune area in the Western Hemisphere, is now stabalized by native grasses. This was not always the case. The Sand Hills have mobilized several times over the last 10,550 years. Major droughts destabilized significant portions of the Sand Hills as recently as 1000 years ago. The stability of the Sand Hills affects not only hundreds of cattle ranches, but also the recharge of the High Plains Aquifer. Of the total groundwater stored in this vast aquifer, 65% occurs in Nebraska and over half of that lies under the Sand Hills. The groundwater connection is obvious throughout the region. Due to the high water table, interdunal valleys in portions of the Sand Hills contain extensive complexes of lakes, wetlands, and naturally sub-irrigated wet meadows, which together cover over 10% of the landscape.

The Sand Hills Biocomplexity Project is a major federal project led by Professor Wedin. The project is aimed at testing whether:

  1. Evapotranspiration (ET) from wet valleys buffers the impacts of short-term drought on upland grasslands through local climate feedbacks. (resistance stability)
  2. When wetlands go dry, the combined effect of lost upland grass cover and lost wetland ET creates a desertification feedback that amplifies drought impacts.
  3. Since subregions of the Sand Hills differ in their extent of interdunal wetlands, subregions respond differently to paleo and historic droughts, thus enabling landowners to prepare for future droughts.
  4. Increased groundwater recharge when dunes are bare hastens the rise of groundwater levels, which, together with the rapid recovery of warm season grasses, restabilizes the dunes. (resilience stability)

The project's Grassland Destabilization Experiment (GDEX) is studying what happens to a Sand Hills dune when the vegetation dies. Researchers have created 10 circular plots at the Barta Brothers Ranch, each 120 meters in diameter, and used herbicide to kill all the vegetation on several of them. The plots are kept clear of vegetation, so that information on vegetation coverage, root mass, soil organic matter, and sand movement may be monitored and recorded to determine the stability of the plots. Results indicate that the Sand Hills may be more stable than previously thought; that is, ersosion is just starting to occur were vegetation was killed two years ago. Additional studies are needed to determine what happens when sand dunes become mobile.

As a part of this project, Professor Vitaly Zlotnik carries out research on groundwater recharge, hydraulic properties of the dune cover, and the climate change effects on groundwater recharge.

Project Support National Science Foundation
Project Website http://sandhills-biocomplexity.unl.edu/
Report
Current Status n/a
Topic Sandhills Studies and Modeling
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Zlotnik, Vitaly
Unit Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
Email vzlotnik1@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-2495
Web Page http://eas.unl.edu/people/faculty_page.php?lastname=Zlotnik&firstname=Vitaly&type=REG
Project Information
Title Variability in Lake Salinity in the Sand Hills
Other(s) John Lenters, School of Natural Resources, jlenters2@unl.edu; Collaborating institutions: Indiana University, Oklahoma State University, U.S. Geological Survey 
Description

This research explores variability in lake salinity in the Sand Hills, which is the largest vegetated sand dune field in the western hemisphere. Numerous lakes occur in topographic depressions under west-east regional groundwater flow. In Sheridan and Garden counties alone there are approximately 400 lakes with surface areas larger than 4 hectare. The concentration of total dissolved solids in lake water ranges from fresh to very saline (three times higher than the ocean salinity). At the same time, the groundwater is fresh. Although several hypotheses are available, causes of wide salinity variations within this large area have not been determined conclusively. Geographically, this project is focused on Crescent Lake National Refuge area and the vicinities.

Understanding salinization mechanisms will explain climate effects on lake salinity and the potential for their existence in the Sand Hills. In addition, results can be utilized for detection and prediction of the consequences of deposition of saline or contaminated water over shallow freshwater aquifers in environmental disasters, such as hurricanes (e.g., Mississippi and Louisiana, U.S., 2005), tsunamis (e.g., Indonesia, Bangladesh in 2005), and large-scale land salinization (e.g., Murray Basin, Australia).

Project Support National Science Foundation
Project Website
Report Sandhills_Salinity_Final_Report.pdf
Current Status Completed
Topic Survey
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Joseph Hamm
Unit jhamm2@nebraska.edu
Phone 402-472-5678
Web Page http://ppc.unl.edu/
Project Information
Title Platte River Habitat Partnership Survey
Other(s) Lisa Pytlik Zillig, Public Policy Center, lpytlikz@nebraska.edu, Alan Tomking, Public Policy Center, atomkins@nebraska.edu 
Description

Nebraska’s native prairies are a valued resource and under constant anthropogenic demand and degradation. By engaging land owners in voluntary programs, the Platte River Habitat Partnership aims to restore and enhance this important natural resource. In this project, the Public Policy Center conducted a survey to assess land owners’ perceptions of the Platte River Habitat Partnership to help direct the Partnership’s second phase. Specifically, land owners who live in the region covered by the Partnership but did not participate, and those that did participate in the Partnership were surveyed in order to answer four key questions: 1. How knowledgeable are these land owners about the Partnership? 2. What is the nature of these land owners’ interactions with the Partnership? 3. How is the Partnership itself generally perceived by these land owners? 4. What would encourage land owners who had not participated in the Partnership to participate?

Project Support The Nature Conservancy
Project Website http://ppc.unl.edu/project/PlatteRiverHabitatPartnershipSurvey
Report PRHP_Report.pdf
Current Status Completed
Topic Wastewater
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Bartelt-Hunt, Shannon
Unit Civil Engineering
Email sbartelt2@unl.edu
Phone 402-554-3868
Web Page http://www.engineering.unl.edu/civil/faculty/ShannonBartelt-Hunt.shtml
Project Information
Title The occurrence of illicit and therapeutic pharmaceuticals in wastewater effluent and surface waters in Nebraska
Other(s) Daniel D. Snow, School of Natural Resources, dsnow1@unl.edu; Teyona Damon; Johnette Shockley; Kyle Hoagland, School of Natural Resources, khoagland1@unl.edu 
Description The occurrence and estimated concentration of twenty illicit and therapeutic pharmaceuticals and metabolites in surface waters influenced by wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) discharge and in wastewater effluents in Nebraska were determined using Polar Organic Chemical Integrative Samplers (POCIS). Samplers were installed in rivers upstream and downstream of treated WWTP discharge at Lincoln, Grand Island, and Columbus, downstream of Hastings' WWTP discharge, and from Omaha's effluent channel just prior to it being discharged into the Missouri River. Based on differences in estimated concentrations determined from pharmaceuticals recovered from POCIS, WWTP effluent was found to be a significant source of pharmaceutical loading to the receiving waters. Effluents from WWTPs with trickling filters or trickling filters in parallel with activated sludge resulted in the highest observed in-stream pharmaceutical concentrations. Azithromycin, caffeine, 1,7 - dimethylzanthine, carbamazepine, cotinine, DEET, diphenhydramine, and sulfamethazine were detected at all locations. Methamphetamine, an illicit pharmaceutical, was detected at all but one of the sampling locations, representing only the second report of methamphetamine detected in WWTP effluent and in streams impacted by WWTP effluent.
Project Support n/a
Project Website
Report Bartelt-Hunt_Wastewater.pdf
Current Status Published in Environmental Pollution 2009 157:786-791
Topic Wastewater
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Woldt, Wayne
Unit Southeast Research and Extension Center
Email wwoldt1@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-8656
Web Page http://bse.unl.edu/wwoldt1
Project Information
Title Onsite Wastewater Treatment System Certification Training and Education Project
Other(s) Jan Hyngstrom, Biological Systems Engineering, jhygnstrom1@unl.edu; Sharon Skipton, Southeast Research and Extension Center, sskipton1@unl.edu 
Description

The goal of this project is to enable onsite wastewater treatment system professionals to apply science-based onsite wastewater design, installation, and maintenance practices and thereby protect water resources and human health. As of December 31, 2005, onsite professionals must pass exams to be certified pumpers, installers, and/or inspectors in the state of Nebraska. In-depth curriculum for Nebraska onsite wastewater system installers, inspectors and pumpers was developed to address this issue. The curriculum helps individuals prepare for exams, as well as help professionals apply science-based practices to protect water resources.

During 2005 and 2006, UNL Extension had 733 educational training contacts. Knowledge and competency was demonstrated by 86 percent passing their exam(s). Results from a follow-up survey of 460 of those who had attended training indicated pumpers (90%), installers (99%) and inspectors (100%) increased knowledge. Pumpers (76%), installers (71%), and inspectors (90%) reported they had made practices changes which would result in water quality and human health being better protected.

Certification training continues on an annual basis and new curriculum is being developed for advanced alternative treatment systems. These systems can achieve greater water quality protection in vulnerable areas including those with high groundwater levels and/or sandy soils. Merrick, Hall, and Hamilton Counties have geographic areas of high risk from traditional onsite wastewater treatment systems due to these factors. Alternative systems could greatly reduce the risk of water quality degradation from nitrate and other contaminants in these areas.

Educational materials have also been developed and delivered for homeowners with onsite systems. The goal is to empower rural homeowners to protect water resources and human health through application of science-based onsite system maintenance and operation practices. Training was delivered in Grand Island and to 50 residents with onsite systems at Turtle Beach near Central City.

Project Support Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, Nebraska Onsite Waste Water Association
Project Website http://water.unl.edu/web/sewage/home
Report
Current Status Continuous
Topic Water Quality
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Chen, Xun-Hong
Unit School of Natural Resources
Email xchen2@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-0772
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=19
Project Information
Title Distribution Patterns of Nitrate-Nitrogen in Groundwater
Other(s) Fujiang Wen, Doctoral Candidate in the School of Natural Resources, fwen314@yahoo.com 
Description

This paper evaluated spatial patterns of nitrate-nitrogen contamination of groundwater in the High Plains Aquifer in the area of Dawson, Buffalo and Hall counties in the South-Central Platte River Valley of Nebraska. Geostatistical approaches including ordinary kriging, indicator kriging and cokriging, were used to analyze 1514 samples drawn from 465 irrigation wells over a 30-year period. The spatial trends of the nitrate-N concentration suggested that about one third of the aquifer in the area had been contaminated by nitrate-N above a level of 5 ppm.

The small areas along with the South-Central Platte River Valley were classified as high risk with the nitrate-N level above 10 ppm. The probabilistic maps exceeding thresholds (10 and 5 ppm) for the nitrate-N concentrations of the groundwater were created to assess vulnerability. The areas with the nitrate-N levels exceeding 10 ppm at an extremely high risk (>75%) were delineated for the future nitrate priority areas of management. Temporal trends of the nitrate-N contamination at 465 sampling locations were analyzed for a period of 30 years. Thirty-seven (37) sampling wells, accounting for 8.0% of the total sampling wells, were identified with an increasing trend, in which the maximum increase was estimated at 4.20 ppm per five-year. Twenty-nine (29) wells were identified with a decreasing trend, in which the average decrease was 0.48 ppm per five-year. It was concluded that the groundwater nitrate-N contamination in some areas, such as the middle area of Buffalo County, was improving, but was worsening in other areas, such as the middle portion of Hall County and the south-eastern corner of Buffalo County. It was found that groundwater irrigation level (or well density) has a positive correlation with high concentration of nitrate-N.

Project Support Central Platte Natural Resources District
Project Website
Report
Current Status Completed
Topic Water Quality
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Dvorak, Bruce
Unit Civil Engineering
Email bdvorak1@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-3431
Web Page http://www.engineering.unl.edu/civil/faculty/BruceDvorak.shtml
Project Information
Title Arsenic and Uranium in Drinking Water Training and Education Project
Other(s) Wayne Woldt, Biological Systems Engineering, wwoldt1@unl.edu; Sharon Skipton, Southeast Research and Extension Center, sskipton1@unl.edu; Gina Rust 
Description

When new Environmental Protection Agency Safe Drinking Water Act standards for arsenic and uranium were enacted, 82 Nebraska public water supplies had arsenic concentrations above the maximum level allowed and 20 had uranium above the standard, including public water supplies in Hamilton, Hall, and Merrick counties. Since arsenic and uranium are naturally occurring in rocks and soil, private water supplies in these geographic areas could also be at risk of having elevated concentrations, possibly putting families at risk from chronic exposure.

A UNL Extension team with a drinking water focus developed and delivered training to UNL Extension faculty/staff in targeted areas at high risk for naturally occurring arsenic and/or uranium. Twelve training sessions were delivered in 2005 including training in Merrick and Hall Counties. Thirty-nine extension personnel with a focus or job description other than drinking water were trained, including 3 in Hall County and 3 in Merrick County. Participants increased their knowledge of the topic in order to work better with owners of private drinking-water wells in the high risk areas. Of those returning an evaluation, 92% strongly agreed or agreed their knowledge increased in regard to arsenic and uranium occurrence, risk, testing, and treatment. These faculty and staff have gone on to provide information and education at the local level to private well owners.

Training on arsenic and uranium in drinking water was delivered at the Nebraska Well Drillers Winter Short Course in 2006 and information on arsenic in drinking water was presented in 2007. Nearly 300 water well professionals attended in 2006 and approximately 250 attended in 2007. Seven percent of 2006 participants evaluating the program indicated the arsenic and uranium program was the best topic during the event, and 19% indicated they were interested in learning more about the topic. Participants indicated they would use the information gained to "spread knowledge on arsenic and uranium to pivot system owners," "educate/inform constituents, customers," "expand markets in arsenic and uranium testing," or "provide safer water."

UNL Extension also delivered training on arsenic and uranium in drinking water at a Professionals Seminar in 2006. Thirty-eight professionals attended. Several professionals involved stated that the focused three-hour presentation gave them an excellent overview of the pertinent design issues which communities and engineers should consider when selecting a method of dealing with high arsenic and uranium levels. They especially appreciated the mix of technical presentations with a panel discussion by community members, regulators, and local engineers.

Project Support Well Driller Training - Nebraska Well Drillers Association Professional Seminar - Nebraska Section of the American Water Works Association, Nebraska Health and Human Services System
Project Website
Report
Current Status Completed
Topic Water Quality
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Kolok, Alan
Unit Biology, UNO
Email akolok@mail.unomaha.edu
Phone 402-554-3545
Web Page http://www.unomaha.edu/envirotox/whoiam.php
Project Information
Title The Watershed as A Conceptual Framework for the Study of Environmental and Human Health
Other(s) Cheryl L. Beseler, Department of Environmental, Agricultural and Occupational Health, UNMC, cbeseler@unmc.edu; Xun-Hong Chen, School of Natural Resources, xchen2@unl.edu; Patrick J. Shea, School of Natural Resources, pshea1@unl.edu 
Description

The watershed provides a physical basis for establishing linkages between aquatic contaminants, environmental health and human health. Current attempts to establish such linkages are limited by environmental and epidemiological constraints. Environmental limitations include difficulties in characterizing the temporal and spatial dynamics of agricultural runoff, in fully understanding the degradation and metabolism of these compounds in the environment, and in understanding complex mixtures. Epidemiological limitations include difficulties associated with the organization of risk factor data and uncertainty about which measurable endpoints are most appropriate for an agricultural setting. Nevertheless, the adoption of the watershed concept can alleviate some of these difficulties. From an environmental perspective, the watershed concept helps identify differences in land use and application of agrichemicals at a level of resolution relevant to human health outcomes. From an epidemiological perspective, the watershed concept places data into a construct with environmental relevance. This project uses the Elkhorn River watershed as a case study to show how the watershed can provide a conceptual framework for studies in environmental and human health.

Environmental sampling is necessary for evaluating exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals (HDCs); however, sampling is not systematic in time or space, nor does it represent the time frame necessary to adequately link it to human disease outcomes. Although data from municipal sources are available and reliable, countless private drinking water wells go untested and unmonitored. These wells may be in areas vulnerable to concentrated reservoirs of contaminants due to the soil type, infiltration rate, runoff potential, organic matter and erodibility coupled with land use in the region and the chemical properties of the contaminants introduced into the environment. The lack of a defined boundary and introduction of exposure heterogeneity is one of the primary reasons why associations to health outcomes cannot be shown in environmental epidemiological studies.

The use of the watershed provides a natural boundary and the potential within this boundary to obtain denominator data. Based on the characteristics of the watershed combined with sampling data, shared exposures can be identified and intermediate hypotheses tested using sentinel markers of exposure in fish and humans. Lastly, comparable groups identified in other watersheds with similar characteristics but different surrounding land uses can be used to replicate findings.

Project Support Department of Environmental, Agricultural and Occupational Health, University of Nebraska Medical Center
Project Website
Report Kolok_Watershed.pdf
Current Status Published in Environmental Health Insights 2009 3:1-10
Topic Water Quality
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Kolok, Alan
Unit Biology, UNO
Email akolok@mail.unomaha.edu
Phone 402-554-3545
Web Page http://www.unomaha.edu/envirotox/whoiam.php
Project Information
Title Occurrence and biological effect of exogenous steroids in the Elkhorn River, Nebraska
Other(s) Daniel D. Snow, School of Natural Resources, dsnow1@unl.edu; Satomi Kohno, Department of Zoology, University of Florida, kohno@ufl.edu; Marlo K. Sellin, Department of Biology, UNO, msellin@mail.unomaha.edu; Louis J. Guillette Jr., Department of Zoology, University of Florida, ljg@ufl.edu 
Description

Recent studies of surface waters in North America, Japan and Europe have reported the presence of steroidogenic agents as contaminants. This study had three objectives:

  1. to determine if steroidogenic compounds are present in the Elkhorn River,
  2. to determine if sediments collected from the Elkhorn River can act as a source of steroidogenic compounds to aquatic organisms, and
  3. to determine if site-specific biological effects are apparent in the hepatic gene expression of fathead minnows.

Evidence was obtained using three approaches:

  1. deployment of polar organic chemical integrative samplers (POCIS),
  2. deployment of caged fathead minnows, and
  3. a laboratory experiment in which POCIS and fish were exposed to sediments from the deployment sites.

Deployment sites included: the Elkhorn River immediately downstream from a Nebraska wastewater treatment plant, two waterways (Fisher Creek and Sand Creek) likely to be impacted by runoff from cattle feeding operations, and a reference site unlikely to be impacted by waste water inputs. The POCIS extracts were analyzed for a number of natural steroids and metabolites, as well as four different synthetic steroids: ethinylestradiol, zearalonol, 17-trenbolone and melengestrol acetate. Estrogenic and androgenic metabolites, as well as progesterone and trace levels of melengestrol acetate were detected in POCIS deployed at each site. POCIS deployed in tanks containing field sediments from the four sites did not accumulate the synthetic steroids except for ethinylestradiol, which was detected in the aquarium containing sediments collected near the wastewater treatment plant. Fish deployed in Sand Creek and at the wastewater treatment plant experienced significantly elevated levels of gene expression for two genes (StAR and P450scc) relative to those deployed in Fisher Creek. Fish exposed to the sediments collected from Sand Creek had significantly higher levels of hepatic StAR and P450scc gene expression than did fish exposed to sediments from the two other field sites, as well as the no-sediment control tank.

In conclusion:

  1. detectable levels of steroidogenic compounds were detected in passive samplers deployed in the Elkhorn River,
  2. sediments do not appear to be a significant source for steroidogenic compounds, and
  3. site-specific differences were found in mRNA expression among the different treatment groups of fish; however, a functional explanation for these differences is not readily forthcoming.
Project Support Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, U.S. Geological Survey's Section 104b Program as administered by the UNL Water Center, US Environmental Protection Agency Greater Opportunities Fellowship, Dr. Daniel Villeneuve, US Environmental Protection Agency
Project Website
Report Kolok_Elkhorn.pdf
Current Status Published in Science of the Total Environment 2007 388:104-115
Topic Water Quality
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Riens, John
Unit Wisconsin Ecological Services Field Office, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Email John_Riens@fws.gov
Phone 541-885-2503
Web Page http://www.fws.gov/
Project Information
Title Macroinvertebrate Response to Buffer Zone Quality in the Rainwater Basin Wetlands of Nebraska
Other(s) W. Wyatt Hoback, Biology UNK, hobackww@unk.edu; Matt Schwarz, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service 
Description

The Rainwater Basin is one of the most endangered wetland ecosystems in North America. This ecosystem is critical to many species including migratory waterfowl. Land use and runnoff from agriculture and cattle confinement operations are likely to be reducing the basin's health and diversity, however little information exists concerning macroinvertebrates. Twenty-two locations were assessed for water quality parameters, vegetation composition, and macroinvertebrates identified to genus. Samples were collected biweekly starting in April through July for three years. Macroinvertebrate diversity was impacted in areas with little buffer although the effects were not pronounced. Institution of a more effective vegetative buffers strip may reverse this trend to improve ecosystem quality and provide for invertebrate resources for migratory birds.

Click here to see a poster about this research

Project Support n/a
Project Website
Report
Current Status Completed
Topic Water Quality
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Spalding, Roy
Unit Agronomy and Horticulture
Email rspalding1@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-8214
Web Page http://agronomy.unl.edu/spalding
Project Information
Title Risk-Managed Approach for Routing Petroleum Pipelines: Keystone XL Pipeline, Nebraska
Other(s) Aaron Hirsh, Department of Civil Engineering, ajhirsh@huskers.unl.edu 
Description

TransCanada’s proposed international crude oil pipeline route over sensitive, relatively pristine, subirrigated land underlain by the Ogallala aquifer led to increased scrutiny and eventual rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline. Pipeline routing could be made much more acceptable by adopting risk-managed routes that lessen the potential to adversely impact high-quality groundwater and, should a release occur, decrease the longevity of hazardous groundwater contaminants. Threats to water quality are taken quite seriously in states like Nebraska where 85% of the population depend on groundwater for potable water.

The authors proposed a southeasterly route through Holt, Antelope and Pierce counties, to the existing north-south Keystone 1 pipeline, avoiding the Ogallala aquifer beneath the fragile and pristine Sandhills, sub-irrigated meadows and areas with very shallow water tables. The risk-managed route through these three counties is through overlying row-cropped land underlain by already contaminated Ogallala groundwater to the Keystone 1 corridor.

Since little is known about the potential movement of dilbit (diluted bitumen) to groundwater at release sites, the study states that one of the best ways to minimize risks from a potential spill is to carefully select a pipeline route with minimal environmental risk and reasonable length. There are so many variables including the chemical composition of the dilbit, ambient temperature, depth to groundwater, emergency cleanup practices and other factors, that predicting the exact mechanism of contaminant movement to the aquifer is complicated. Additionally, the existing nitrate contamination in Holt, Antelope and Pierce counties stretches for over 100 miles and 1 million acres. These leached soils enhance the degradation of hazardous petroleum compounds in groundwater.

Project Support Nebraska Ethanol Board and Hatch grant 21-6222-1055
Project Website
Report Risk_Managed_Petroleum_Pipeline.pdf
Current Status Completed
Pic 1 Project Image
Topic Water Quality
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Tang, Zhenghong
Unit Architecture
Email ztang2@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-9281
Web Page http://architecture.unl.edu/people/bios/tang_zhenghong.shtml
Project Information
Title Assessment of Sedimentation and Water Quality Conditions in the Rainwater Basin's Playa Wetlands
Other(s) Mark Kuzila, School of Natural Resources, mkuzila1@unl.edu; Xu Li, Department of Civil Engineering, xuli@unl.edu; Amy Burgin, School of Natural Resources, aburgin2@unl.edu 
Description

The overall goal of this project is to prioritize watershed restoration/acquisition programs in the Rainwater Basin (RWB) by examining playa wetlands’ sedimentation and water quality conditions using the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation 2 (RUSLE2) and the fly ash technology.

Three specific tasks are included in this project:

  1. Calculate and map the sedimentation rates and the age of deposition for all playa wetlands in RWB
  2. Consolidate existing water quality data of the RWB playa wetlands and evaluate the key factors influencing playa wetland water quality
  3. Assess the effects of sedimentation control practices and prioritize future watershed restoration/acquisition programs

The final products of this project include:

  1. An atlas of wetland sedimentation maps and a risk report highlighting the areas in watersheds with the highest sedimentation rates
  2. A geodatabase and an evaluation report on the water quality conditions of the playa wetlands in the RWB
  3. A written assessment report for sedimentation control practices and a watershed index to prioritize future conservation/acquisition programs
Project Support U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Project Website http://www.unl.edu/playawetlands/
Report
Current Status Underway
Topic Water Quality
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Thomas, Steve
Unit School of Natural Resources
Email sthomas5@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-4030
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=745
Project Information
Title Understanding Cyanobacteria Blooms in Willow Creek Reservoir
Other(s) Amy Burgin, School of Natural Resources, aburgin2@unl.edu 
Description

Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green or toxic algae, pose a health threat to people and animals that come in contact with lake water suffering from an algal bloom and result in economic hardships to local communities that depend on recreational dollars spent at lakes experiencing blooms. Willow Creek Reservoir near Pierce, Nebraska is one such lake that has experienced several cyanobacterial blooms since its construction in 1984. When placed on alert status due to cyanobacteria levels, the estimated impact is an 80% drop in boaters and beach goers, a 33% drop in camper numbers, and a 50% drop in angler visitation. Local stakeholders such as the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District wish to reduce these blooms to the extent possible. However, in order to do so, a better understanding of the causes of those blooms needs to be established.

This project proposes to achieve that understanding by: (1) characterizing cyanobacteria levels in Willow Creek Reservoir; (2) characterizing potential causes of those cyanobacteria blooms; (3) identifying relations between cyanobacteria levels in Willow Creek Reservoir and potential causes; and (4) sharing those findings with the public and local stakeholders to provide guidance for managing cyanobacteria in Willow Creek Reservoir. These tasks will be accomplished over a 3-year period through a collaborative effort between six separate agencies and by leveraging funding from local, state, and federal sources in addition to those requested from the Nebraska Environmental Trust Fund.

Project Support Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District
Project Website
Report
Current Status Underway
Topic Water Quality
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name van Donk, Simon
Unit West Central Research and Extension Center
Email svandonk2@unl.edu
Phone 308-696-6709
Web Page http://westcentral.unl.edu/web/westcentral/svandonk
Project Information
Title Quantify the extent of vertical hormone movement through vadose zone soils
Description

The extent of exogenous hormone use in beef cattle production, in addition to endogenous hormones, increases the risk of hormone residues entering the environment when manure is applied to soil. This research will provide key information on the environmental fate of hormones commonly found in feedlot cattle manure. This information is critical in developing management practices for concentrated animal feeding operations and farms that will reduce environmental risks associated with land application of manure.

This research will be conducted using the specialized percolation lysimeters research site at the West Central Research and Extension Center during 2008 and 2009. The site contains fourteen percolation lysimeters installed at the center of each of fourteen field plots. Each plot is 40 ft m by 40 ft. Each lysimeter contains an undisturbed soil core with a diameter of 3 ft and a depth of 8 ft and has porous extractors at the bottom, which allows the extraction of leachate from unsaturated soil using a vacuum pump. These lysimeters have been used successfully for several nitrate-leaching experiments. Water samples, which represent the water that is leached from the crop root zone, can be collected at the bottom of these lysimeters and will be used to determine the amounts and types of hormones leaching below the crop root zone. Treatments will consist of treated stockpiled manure, treated compost manure, and a check (no manure application). The manures will be applied to the lysimeters and field areas adjacent to the lysimeters in the spring of 2008 at application rates to satisfy the nitrogen needs of corn based on University of Nebraska recommendations. The check plots will receive commercial nitrogen fertilizer to match the manure N availability. Three treatments and three replications (nine lysimeters in nine plots) will be used for this study.

Wheat will be planted in the lysimeters and adjacent plots during both years. Soil moisture from each plot will be measured weekly at 1 ft depth increments to a depth of 7 ft, using the neutron probe method. Water samples will be collected every three weeks from the lysimeters from April to November in both years. Soil samples will be collected at six depth increments down to a depth of 8 ft, four times between application and October in 2008, and three times from April to August in 2009. To reduce sampling errors created by spatial variability within each plot, five sub-samples will be taken from each depth. The sub-samples will then be mixed to create one composite sample. Background soil profile samples will be taken before the manure is applied. Sampling depths will be increased as needed, based on the confirmed movement of hormones of interest through the soil profile. Soil and leachate samples will only be taken during the periods when the ground is not frozen (April to November), when movement of water is expected.

Project Support n/a
Project Website
Report
Current Status Continuing
Topic Watershed Management
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Allen, John C.
Unit Agricultural Economics
Email jallen1@unl.edu
Phone 435-797-9732
Web Page
Project Information
Title Socio-Cultural Study of the Middle Platte River Region of Nebraska: Building Capacity for Community-Based Conservation
Description Telephone surveys, focus group interviews, and in-depth interviews were conducted in 1997 and community profiles developed in 1998 to provide an integrated picture of the social and cultural factors that influence how Middle Platte River residents and communities perceive the river; where their futures fit with the perceived best case scenarios; and the future they see for themselves, their family, and their community.
Project Support U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Project Website http://watercenter.unl.edu/PRS/PlatteRiverReports/Socio-Cultural%20Study%20of%20the%20Middle%20Platte%20River.pdf
Report
Current Status Completed
Topic Watershed Management
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Hoagland, Kyle
Unit Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit
Email khoagland1@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-9544
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=50
Project Information
Title Making Adaptive Management Meaningful: Translating Science Learning into Policy Decision-Making
Other(s) Chad Smith, School of Natural Resources, smithc@headwaterscorp.com 
Description

Adaptive management has been and continues to be implemented around the country and world, yet few examples exist of programs successfully implementing all six steps (Assess, Design, Implement, Monitor, Evaluate, and Adjust) of adaptive management. A key break point in this process seems to be synthesizing collected data and using that synthesis to tell a story about what data say in regard to key questions and hypotheses in a way that is useful to decision-makers and results in positive changes in management or policy.

Chad Smith continues his research into the gap between science and decision-making in adaptive management programs and tools to successfully bridge that gap.

GOALS:

  1. Explore the science and policy interface in a comparative study of several adaptive management programs
  2. Provide specific background on this issue as it relates to the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program
  3. Showcase decision analysis and other tools that can be used as decision support in the Platte River and other adaptive management programs
  4. Discuss opportunities for and challenges to bridging the science/policy gap

Smith is applying learning from his research in the real world, serving as Adaptive Management Plan implementation coordinator for the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program. He is also co-lead of a small team writing an Adaptive Management Plan for the Middle Rio Grande Endangered Species Collaborative Program.

Project Support n/a
Project Website http://snr.unl.edu/necoopunit/research.main.html#making_adaptive_management
Report
Current Status Continuing
Topic Watershed Management
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Jenkins, Allan
Unit Economics
Email
Phone
Web Page
Project Information
Title Middle Platte Socioeconomic Overview
Description This report was published in February 1999 and designed to provide a common body of knowledge to all groups engaged in decisions regarding the Platte River. Recognizing that different decision-makers have different levels of prior knowledge concerning the Platte River, the author attempted to create a document suitable for a range of audiences that also facilitated discussion.
Project Support U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Project Website http://watercenter.unl.edu/PRS/PlatteRiverReports/The%20Platte%20Watershed%20Program.pdf
Report
Current Status Completed
Topic Watershed Management
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Knutson, Cody (advisor)
Unit National Drought Mitigation Center
Email cknutson1@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-6718
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=430
Project Information
Title Stakeholder Perceptions of Water Supply Management and Sustainability in the Republican River Basin in Nebraska
Other(s) Ryan Bjerke, ryan.bjerke@huskers.unl.edu 
Description Due to a variety of human-induced and natural factors, water resources throughout the world will continue to face mounting challenges to their longevity and extent, and those within the Republican River Basin in Nebraska are no exception. Understanding the perspectives of water users is essential for developing informed and effective water resource policies and management plans. This study utilized a key informant sampling strategy in conjunction with in-depth telephone interviews to ascertain the perceptions of 32 key stakeholders in the Republican River Basin in Nebraska on concepts pertaining to water supply management and sustainability. The interview questionnaire was designed using a mixed methods approach that relied on qualitative and quantitative measures. Specifically, stakeholders were asked a series of questions to understand their perspectives on: the causes of water supply stress in the basin; what sustainable water management meant to them; the sustainability of water resources in the basin; and solutions that could be implemented to reduce water supply stress in the basin (e.g., financial, regulatory, infrastructure development, and water conservation and technical options). The study found a majority of individuals attributed ground water level declines to increased ground water use, more ground water users, and changing climate, while most believed surface water flow reductions were due to these factors in addition to soil and water conservation measures and increased near- and in-channel plant growth. Because of the need to maintain economic viability and protect water for future generations, water resource sustainability was very important to participants. Stakeholders thought solutions to water resources issues could be best achieved by employing a combination of: regulatory measures, like irrigated acreage and pumping limits; water conservation options, such as crop rotations and conservation tillage; and technological advancements, like more water-efficient irrigation systems and improved hybrids. Overall, eliciting stakeholder's perceptions on issues related to water supply stress and sustainability, along with potential solutions, may help inform policy and management decisions aimed at promoting water resource sustainability in the basin.
Project Support
Project Website
Report
Current Status Graduate thesis project completed December 2009 - thesis available at UNL CY Thompson Library (Call # LD3656 2009 .B547)
Topic Watershed Project
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Shea, Patrick J.
Unit School of Natural Resources
Email pshea1@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-1533
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=109
Project Information
Title Application of Landscape Vulnerability Models to Assess Off-Site Pesticide Movement in a Nebraska-Kansas Watershed
Other(s) Maribeth Milner, Agronomy and Horticulture, mmilner1@unl.edu; Mark Bernards, Agronomy and Horticulture, mbernards2@unl.edu; Phil Barnes, Biological and Agricultural Engineering, Kansas State University, lbarnes@ksu.edu 
Description

Some landscape positions are more likely than others to contribute to ground and surface water contamination from agricultural inputs and management practices. By identifying these areas at a regional scale, resources can be optimally targeted to address potential problems at the field scale. We developed SSURGO (Soil Survey Geographic)-based models to assess vulnerability to pesticide contamination of ground or surface waters across the landscape. Upon application of the models to a four-county (NE-KS) study area (Blue River Basin), between-county discontinuities emerged. Each county soil map is based on the particular expression of soil-forming factors as interpreted by local mapping teams, but these teams may or may not have input on the mapping of adjacent counties. Soil map units are typically blended across county boundaries, but these changes will not correct fundamental differences in the models used to create soil maps. The discontinuities in our study area may be due to an end moraine that cuts northwest to southeast (predominantly through the western counties), differences in mapping dates (1975-2003), and variations in data interpretation by agencies in Kansas and Nebraska. By incorporating slope and slope length data generated from relatively high resolution 10 m DEMs (digital elevation models), we increased sensitivity to topography at the SSURGO polygon level. Model output between the SSURGO-based and the DEM-based topographic data differed substantially for the eastern glaciated counties, but were relatively similar for the western counties. Assuming that the DEM is correct, this suggests a lack of consistency in defining the SSURGO representative slope and (or) slope lengths among counties. Although discontinuities occur between counties, model output can be used to identify the most vulnerable areas within each county. Model utility is demonstrated by comparing model output with surface water quality measurements in the watershed.

Maps resulting from our models show relative landscape vulnerability to pesticide leaching and runoff. This information can be used to prioritize and target areas within a watershed for conservation management practices and other actions that will reduce contamination of water resources and improve water quality. We applied the models to a four-county NE-KS study area (Big Blue Basin) and propose solutions to discontinuities between counties resulting from variations in data intepretation due to differences in mapping teams and dates. We use surface water quality measurements to show the utility of our models.

Project Support USDA-CSREES National Integrated Water Quality Program.
Project Website http://www.usawaterquality.org/conferences/2009/PDF/Wshed-poster/Shea09.pdf
Report
Current Status Continuing
Topic Watershed Project
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Shelton, David
Unit Biological Systems Engineering and Extension Agricultural Engineer
Email dshelton2@unl.edu
Phone 402-584-3849
Web Page http://bse.unl.edu/dshelton2
Project Information
Title Shell Creek Watershed Improvement Project
Other(s) Rod Wilke, Northeast REC, rwilke2@unl.edu 
Description

Through a several-entity partnership best management practices (BMPs) are being adopted or installed in the Shell Creek Watershed, helping to protect the quality of both surface and ground water. Shell Creek drains approximately 300,000 acres in parts of Boone, Colfax, Madison, and Platte counties, and has a history of flooding that has frequently caused damage along its length. Shell Creek has been on the Nebraska's list of impaired waters for fecal coliform bacteria and other impairments. Soil erosion is a major problem throughout the watershed.

Using a variety of delivery methods, cooperative educational programming led by Extension in the Shell Creek Watershed primarily focuses on: the water quality benefits of (BMPs, management needed to ensure BMP success, and the availability of enhanced and/or special cost-share funding for BMP adoption or installation within targeted areas of the watershed. Key accomplishments since the project was initiated in September 2004 include:

  • Twenty-nine illegal wells were properly decommissioned thus protecting water quality and human health and safety. One of these was a 36-inch diameter, 50-foot deep dug well that the landowner discovered when the front wheel of his tractor dropped into it. He did not know that this well was there, despite having grown up on that farm.
  • Thirty-one sub-standard or failing septic systems were upgraded to current standards. Before upgrading, septic tank effluent was surfacing in at least two of these systems, while another system had no drainfield and the effluent was piped directly to Shell Creek. Over two million gallons of domestic wastewater annually is now being properly treated because of these upgrades, substantially reducing the risks to public health and the environment.
  • Forty-eight producers contracted for the implementation of no-till planting on nearly 6,600 acres of cropland for a period of at least five years. This conversion will result in an estimated soil erosion reduction of over 328,500 tons annually.
  • Fifty-two contracts for buffers and other structural practices were installed on a total of 215 acres of cropland. The conversion of this land to permanent vegetative cover will reduce soil erosion on the order of 3,200 tons per year and provide excellent wildlife habitat. These practices and additional benefits include:
  • five stream-side filter strips installed by three individuals on 38.1 acres that will filter the runoff from approximately 1,200 upslope acres;
  • a 6.0 acre riparian forest buffer that will filter the runoff from approximately 200 upslope acres and may provide future income from the sale of some of the trees that were planted;
  • thirteen grassed waterways, totaling 36.3 acres, installed by six individuals, will filter and direct the runoff from approximately 400 acres of upslope cropland;
  • a nearly 5-acre field windbreak that may contribute to increased yields by reducing wind velocity on the adjacent crop;
  • three buffers that provide 31.9 acres of habitat especially suited for northern bobwhite quail;
  • and contour buffers totaling 17.2 acres on two farms that will help reduce soil erosion by slowing the flow of runoff water and trapping sediment carried by the runoff.

In aggregate, over $1 million in incentive, land rental, cost-sharing, and other payments is being infused into the Shell Creek Watershed as a direct result of this programming. These payments include:

  • $289,800 for the implementation of no-till planting systems and associated management practices.
  • $198,500 for the installation of various types of conservation buffers.
  • $40,700 to upgrade failing septic systems to meet current standards.
  • $10,050 to decommission out-of-service water wells.

This educational effort and special cost-share funding is a partnership among USDA Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service; UNL Extension; PrairieLand Resource, Conservation and Development Council; Shell Creek Watershed Improvement Group; Natural Resources Conservation Service; Pheasants Forever; and the Lower Platte North Natural Resources District.

Project Support Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality Section 319 Program (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency), Nebraska Environmental Trust.
Project Website http://www.newman.esu8.org/vnews/display.v/SEC/Activities%3E%3EWatershed%20Project
Report Shelton_Buffers.pdf
Current Status Completed
Topic Wetlands
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Allen, Craig
Unit Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit
Email callen3@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-0229
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=647
Project Information
Title Missouri River Mitigation: Implementation of Amphibian Monitoring and Adaptive Management for Wetland Restoration Evaluation
Other(s) Martin Simon, Benedictine College; Michelle Hellman, School of Natural Resources, michelle.hellman@huskers.unl.edu; Ashley Vanderham, School of Natural Resources, avanderham@huskers.unl.edu 
Description

Data are being collected to determine what constitutes a successful wetland restoration, given the desired goals of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Herpetofauna primarily amphibians are being used as indicators of wetland success. This will be accomplished by quantifying the occurrence and recruitment of amphibians at existing mitigation sites and formulating models of quality wetland restorations. These models will be used by managers in future restorations and for adaptive management approaches to the design of new wetland restorations. The study area is the Missouri River corridor of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.

This project is a multi-institutional monitoring program that focuses on tightly linking monitoring with hypothesis testing in an adaptive framework. The design consists of frog call surveys to determine occupancy rates for a large number of wetlands on numerous restoration properties, coupled with intensive sampling of frogs, turtles and salamanders to assess abundance and recruitment on eight restored wetland complexes in four states. The focus areas for the Nebraska Coop Unit are three Missouri River wetland complexes located from Falls City to Omaha, Nebraska. Project collaborators at Benedictine College in Kansas are focusing on the Benedictine Wetlands in Kansas.

Click here to read a fact sheet on this project

Project Support United States Geological Survey, United States Army Corps of Engineers
Project Website http://snr.unl.edu/necoopunit/research.main.html#missouririvermitigation
Report
Current Status Underway
Topic Wetlands
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Tang, Zhenghong
Unit Architecture
Email ztang2@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-9281
Web Page http://architecture.unl.edu/people/bios/tang_zhenghong.shtml
Project Information
Title Developing LiDAR-Derived Wetland Maps To Assess Conservation Design Practices For Playa Wetlands In Rainwater Basin
Other(s) Ed Harvey, School of Natural Resources, feharvey1@unl.edu; Xu Li, Department of Civil Engineering 
Description The overall goal of this project is to provide wetland managers with topographically-correct 3-D wetland maps to prioritize wetland conservation efforts and assess wetland conservation design practices. This project addresses three specific tasks for the playa wetlands: 1) Establish accurate, topographically-correct, 3-D wetland maps to relate weather conditions and wetland functions; 2) Develop a measurable Restorable Wetland Index to prioritize playa wetland and drainages conservation; 3) Assess wetland conservation design practices for watershed-based wetland conservation. This research will use high-resolution Light Detections And Ranging (LiDAR) data to create next-generation wetland maps for playa wetlands. The research provides the missing link in conservation design as these data will provide accurate elevation measures to delineate watershed extent and determine the impact of individual hydrologic modifications. This project will be one of the first to integrate LiDAR data and a hydrologic modifications datasets to find the relations of current weather conditions and wetland functions. This project provides reliable, accurate wetland spatial parameters to prioritize playa wetland conservation and assess the effectiveness of existing wetland conservation design practices. The wetland conservation design tools and protocols will be examined in two pilot counties in Nebraska. The intellectual merit of the research is based on advancing knowledge linkage of wetland mapping technologies and wetland function modifications, and showing how to adapt wetland conservation designs. The outputs from this project provide practical protocols for state/regional/local wetland managers and thus ensure "no net loss" in quality and quantity of wetlands.
Project Support US EPA
Project Website
Report
Current Status Completed
Topic Wildlife
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Allen, Craig
Unit Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit
Email callen3@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-0229
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=647
Project Information
Title River Otter Home Range and Habitat Use
Other(s) Sam Wilson, School of Natural Resources, swilson5@yahoo.com; Amy Williams, School of Natural Resources, amy_ruth18@hotmail.com 
Description

River otters (Lontra canadensis) are native to Nebraska but were extirpated by the early 1900s. River otters became reestablished in Nebraska following their reintroduction in the mid 1980s and early 1990s by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. The species is currently listed as threatened in Nebraska. Despite the high profile of the reintroduction and the otters' role as a flagship species, relatively little is known about river otter ecology in Nebraska. In order to provide information for management, research was conducted to determine home range, habitat use, overnight movement distance, and annual survival of river otters in the central Platte River of Nebraska.

Eighteen river otters were trapped, implanted with telemetry transmitters, and tracked during 2006-2009. Researchers obtained 996 telemetry locations and constructed 13 annual home ranges. Male home ranges were larger than female home ranges. Habitat use was determined by comparing used versus available habitats using compositional analysis. Open water was used more than any other habitat type in all three comparisons tested.

Nineteen overnight movements were recorded (465 total telemetry locations) for four river otters during 2007-2008. Movements during January-February, when NGPC conducts winter bridge surveys, were lower than during the rest of the year. Annual survival was 100% as no river otter mortalities were detected during the study period.

River otters in the central Platte River select open water over other habitat types, exhibit reduced movements during winter months, and have high annual survival. This information will be used by NGPC to assess the status of river otters in Nebraska and direct management efforts for the species.

Project Support Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
Project Website n/a
Report Wilson River Otter.pdf
Current Status Completed
Topic Wildlife
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Pegg, Mark
Unit School of Natural Resources
Email mpegg2@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-6824
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=739
Project Information
Title Habitat Usage of Missouri River Paddlefish Project
Description Sediment from the Niobrara River has created a delta area near the headwaters of Lewis and Clark Lake, the reservoir formed by Gavins Point Dam on the Missouri River. This sediment aggregation has reduced reservoir volume and threatens to fill the reservoir; therefore, restoration of reservoir capacity has been proposed by means of high-velocity water releases from upstream mainstem dams. Biologists, however, have reported that this delta area may serve as spawning grounds for native fishes like paddlefish, and may provide suitable spawning habitat for federally endangered pallid sturgeon. This situation has created a unique paradox where information is needed to provide insight into fulfilling both the river management needs and biological needs in the Missouri River. This project will use paddlefish telemetry to study spawning success.

Click here to read Brenda Pracheil's dissertation on Paddlefish populations

Project Support Nebraska Environmental Trust
Project Website
Report Pracheil et al_Fisheries_2012.pdf
Current Status Completed
Topic Wildlife
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Pegg, Mark (advisor)
Unit Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit
Email mpegg2@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-6824
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=739
Project Information
Title Catfish Population Dynamics in the Platte River, Nebraska
Other(s) Tony J. Barada, abarada2@unl.edu 
Description

Catfish angling is popular throughout the United States and catfish are the most sought after fish species in the Platte River. However, catfish management in the Platte River is minimal as little is known about current populations. The objective of this study was to determine the current status of channel catfish and flathead catfish populations in the central and lower Platte River. Specifically, the study evaluated population characteristics including relative abundance, size structure, condition, age, growth and mortality.

Channel catfish are much more abundant than flathead catfish in the Platte River. The current Platte River channel catfish population appears to be average, comparable to many Nebraska and Midwestern rivers. Population characteristics displayed considerable variation along the Platte River and some longitudinal patterns were evident. Channel catfish in the central Platte River had lower relative abundances, higher condition, greater size structure, faster growth and lower mortality compared to lower Platte River channel catfish. Key factors likely influencing differences in channel catfish population characteristics are prey availability, flow modifications, habitat characteristics, tributary inflows and angler exploitation. Water manipulations from the Loup River Power Canal were also identified as a possible negative influence on lower Platte River channel catfish populations because hydropeaking is likely creating a stressful environment. However, channel catfish in the central Platte River appear to have benefited from recent high flows that likely increased productivity and food availability in the central Platte River.

Tony Barada's Master's Thesis on Catfish Population Dynamics in the Platte River

Project Support Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Federal Aid in Sportfish Restoration
Project Website
Report
Current Status Graduate thesis project completed - thesis available at UNL CY Thompson Library (Call # LD3656 2009 .B373)
Topic Wildlife
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Pope, Kevin
Unit Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit
Email kpope2@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-7028
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=759
Project Information
Title Recruitment of Walleye and White Bass in Irrigation Reservoirs
Other(s) Jason DeBoer, Robert Kill and Christopher Lewis, Graduate Students; Ryan Lueckenhoff (MS 2011), Dustin Martin (MS 2008) 
Description

The five reservoirs within Nebraska’s Republican River watershed (Swanson, Enders, Red Willow [also referred to as Hugh Butler Lake], Medicine Creek [Harry Strunk Lake], and Harlan County) were built primarily for flood control and irrigation, resulting in large in-reservoir water-level fluctuations within and among years. These reservoirs also provide important fisheries for anglers in southwest Nebraska. Walleye and white bass are of particular importance in these reservoirs. However, continued annual stockings of walleye are necessary because natural production is limited. In contrast, white bass populations are self-sustaining within these reservoirs, although recruitment is extremely erratic (i.e., weak or missing year-classes are common) in all but Harlan County Reservoir. A recruitment bottleneck likely exists for walleye and perhaps white bass in these irrigation reservoirs.

GOALS: The purpose of this project is to gain an understanding of the factors affecting recruitment of walleye and white bass in irrigation reservoirs. The primary foci are documenting the relative Catching walleye with an electro-fisherimportance of spawning habitats and determining when the suspected recruitment bottleneck for walleye and white bass occurs in southwest Nebraska irrigation reservoirs. This information is vital for understanding reservoir fish ecology in semiarid regions.

CURRENT STATUS: Sampling walleye and white bass populations continues in these reservoirs. Several more years of data are needed to begin initial explorations for potential recruitment bottlenecks of walleye and white bass in southwest Nebraska irrigation reservoirs. We have finished processing otoliths from fall gillnet surveys conducted with Nebraska Game and Parks Commission from 2007–2011, which allows us to evaluate the age structure of the walleye and white bass populations in these reservoirs. Furthermore, mathematical models are allowing us to gain insight into the mechanisms affecting recruitment of walleye and white bass, and the spatial scale at which these mechanisms are operating. Future efforts include comparing walleye egg size (theoretically related to reservoir productivity) among reservoirs, and evaluating larval white bass feeding efficiency under variable turbidity conditions and zooplankton densities.

In an effort to improve the walleye fishery in the reservoirs, annual stocking strategies are being evaluated. The effect of in-reservoir water-level fluctuations on the success of walleye stocking is being examined, with the goal of constructing a mathematical model to predict maximum stocking efficiency.

Project Support Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
Project Website http://snr.unl.edu/necoopunit/research.main.html#Recruitment_of_Walleye_and_White_Bass_in_Irrigation_Reservoirs
Report
Current Status Continuing
Topic Wildlife
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Stansbury, John
Unit Civil Engineering, UNO
Email jstansbury2@unl.edu
Phone 402-554-3896
Web Page http://www.civil.unl.edu/faculty/John-Stansbury
Project Information
Title Multi-Criteria Assessment of Habitat Restoration for the Missouri River Project
Other(s) Istvan Bogardi (retired), ibogardi1@unl.edu 
Description

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in cooperation with other agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently planning, designing, and constructing projects designed to restore habitat in and along the Missouri River. The primary focus of the projects is restoration of habitat for three endangered or threatened species: pallid sturgeon, least tern, and piping plover. Management and restoration of the Missouri River is a complex endeavor that affects many people with many and often conflicting priorities. In addition, restoration of habitat is a complex process with many and often conflicting objectives. For example, habitat restoration activities for one species may interfere with habitat needs for another species. Finally, habitat restoration success is difficult to measure, in part because there is often a significant lag time between the restoration activity and the response by the target species. Therefore, a method is being developed, using multi-criteria assessment tools, to help the USACE and cooperators assess the status and the progress of the habitat restoration program.

The goal of this project is to develop a multi-criteria assessment tool that can be used to assess the overall status and progress of the habitat restoration efforts on the Missouri River. To achieve this goal, the first step will be to determine the requirements for habitat (e.g., water depths, velocities, bottom substrates, etc) for the endangered species. Then measurement criteria (i.e., what data will need to be collected to assess the availability of the required habitat) will be established. Finally, a multi-criteria assessment tool will be developed and used to integrate the conditions of the various measurement criteria (depths, velocities, etc.) to gain an understanding of the overall quality and quantity of habitat at different points in time.

Project Support U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Project Website
Report
Current Status Continuing
Topic Wildlife
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Vivian, Lindsay A.
Unit Biology, UNK
Email lindsayviv@gmail.com
Phone 308-379-4587
Web Page
Project Information
Title Updating the Distribution and Population Status of the Platte River Caddisfly
Other(s) W. Wyatt Hoback, Biology UNK, hobackww@unk.edu 
Description The Platte River caddisfly, Ironoquia plattensis, was first described in 1999 from a warm water slough just south of Grand Island, NE. Using a benthic core sampling method, the investigators reported an average caddisfly larval density of 805 ± 194/m2. In 2004, there were no Platte River caddisflies observed at the 1999 study site. Ironoquia plattensis has been observed at five other locations in the central Platte region, but only two of the six historic populations are considered stable. Between 2002 and 2005, central Nebraska suffered an extensive drought, which could have taken its toll on the caddisfly. The sloughs where Ironoquia plattensis occur are typically wet nine months out of the year and dry during the summer. During the summer of 2009, four historic sites and one new, previously unrecorded site were sampled for larvae using a 30 cm D-frame net to sample a one meter swath a minimum of four times from each location. Using a GIS (Geographic Information Systems) predictive model and Google Earth, additional areas are being surveyed for the presence of the Platte River Caddisfly. The GIS model was created using local groundwater data from 1999 to the present, a soils layer, high resolution imagery, and a vegetation map analysis. If more populations are found, transects will be set up on the slough banks, and a quadrat will be used to quantify larval abundance in these areas. This will also be done at all historic locations. The goal is to establish the population status of this very rare insect of Nebraska which is adapted to the seasonal flows of the Platte River.

Lindsay Vivian's Master's Thesis on Platte River Caddisfly

For more information, read this journal article in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America

Project Support US Fish and Wildlife Service
Project Website
Report
Current Status In progress
Topic Wildlife
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Young, Chelsey
Unit Biology, UNK
Email youngca2@unk.edu
Phone 507-469-8284
Web Page
Project Information
Title A range-wide assessment of plains topminnow (Fundulus sciadicus) distribution and potential threats
Other(s) W. Wyatt Hoback, Biology UNK, hobackww@unk.edu; Keith Koupal, Biology UNK; Justin Haas 
Description The plains topminnow, Fundulus sciadicus, was once distributed from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains, north to South Dakota and as far south as Oklahoma. Two centers of distribution are recognized. One is centered in Nebraska and the second is centered in Missouri. The geographic range of plains topminnow has decreased in the past decades. Plains topminnow are now considered a species of special concern in the state of Nebraska and listed as a Tier 1 species in the Nebraska Natural Legacy Project. Elimination of plains topminnow populations has been associated with introduction of invasive species, as well as loss of backwater habitats due to drought and lowered water tables. The objective of this project is to provide an updated assessment of plains topminnow distribution and population status as compared to all available historical records. Between 2004 and the present, sampling of plains topminnow revealed that in Nebraska 77% of historic Nebraska sites no longer contain plains topminnow populations. The sampling of remaining historic sites in Nebraska and neighboring states will continue in the 2009 sampling season.
Project Support n/a
Project Website
Report topminnow_range_reduction.pdf
Current Status Completed
Location

Congressional District 3

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