NU Water-Related Research in the Upper Big Blue NRD

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

Displaying 21 records found for Upper Big Blue NRD


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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 Gitelson, Anatoly
Unit Center for Advanced Land Management Information Technologies
Email agitelson2@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-8386
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=39
Project Information
Title Using Remote Sensing to Detect the Threat of Blue-Green Algae
Description

Remote sensing is a useful tool for providing regulatory officials with the data necessary to make decisions regarding recreational waters. In 2005, CALMIT scientists undertook a collaborative effort with the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality aimed at developing a tool to identify lakes where blue-green algae populations are present. The overall purpose was to incorporate those affected lakes into a toxic-algae alert procedure to provide early warnings to the public about the potential danger. This project also served to promote coordination and information sharing about toxic-algae issues among local units of government, lake associations, lake owners, and the public.

Both in-situ (close-range) and remote techniques were employed to detect and quantify in real-time the algal phytoplankton pigment concentration and composition (i.e., chlorophyll-a and phycocyanin in the water column). Two criteria were used to identify lakes and reservoirs with high probability of toxic algae: 1) chlorophyll concentration above 50 mg/m3; and 2) existence of blue green algae (the phycocyanin absorption feature has been used to indicate remotely the presence of blue-green algae). These criteria were tested by analytical assessment of toxic algae and the tests were positive: when the sensor systems indicated high probability of toxins, they were found in water samples.

Project Support Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality
Project Website http://www.calmit.unl.edu/research.php
Report
Current Status Completed
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 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 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