Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District Groundwater Quality Monitoring

Science Center Objects

The USGS Nebraska Water Science Center has been collecting groundwater quality samples in cooperation with the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District (NRD) since 1992 in support of the NRD's groundwater management plan. The basic geochemistry and age of the groundwater was established. Well waters are sampled yearly throughout the NRD to monitor the resource and assess concentrations of agriculture-related chemicals as well as additional nutrients and pesticides.

The USGS Nebraska Water Science Center has been collecting groundwater quality samples in cooperation with the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District (NRD) since 1992. The NRD is located in eastern Nebraska, is about 1,700 square miles, and covers a portion of seven counties. The NRD is bounded by the Missouri, Platte and Elkhorn Rivers, and political boundaries on the western side. Nebraska’s largest metropolitan area, Omaha, is within this NRD. The rest of the NRD is mainly farmland, with irrigated farming in the valley and dryland farming in the upland areas.

The project was initiated to determine the overall quality of the defined aquifers, and to identify the contaminants within the aquifer. In 2006, the project was revised to focus on agricultural related chemicals, specifically contaminants that were measured in the aquifers at 30% of the maximum contaminant level. Additional unregulated pesticides were added to the sample analysis rotation as well. This adjustment allowed the NRD to identify and monitor areas that could possibly need future management. 

Samples were collected from irrigation, domestic, municipal and stock wells across the NRD. Sample collection focused on a specific aquifer each year, with a total of 25-30 samples collected from the aquifer of interest during the sampling season. Through 2015, over 2,200 samples have been collected from over 350 sites.

Map showing extent of aquifers in the Papio-Missouri River NRD
Extent of aquifers in the Papio-Missouri River NRD and locations of domestic wells.

Metropolitan areas in this NRD are serviced by municipal water supplies. For Omaha, water supplies come from the Missouri and Platte Rivers. Most small towns and all rural residents obtain their water from groundwater wells. This is a unique system because a majority of the concerns for the NRD are focused on the surface water supplies, yet as the cities grow more people are tapping into the groundwater supplies, either through personal domestic wells or municipal wells in smaller towns.

Five principal aquifers are within the Papio-Missouri River NRD: the Dakota aquifer and Elkhorn River Valley, Missouri River Valley, Platte River Valley, and upland area alluvial aquifers. Water samples from these 5 aquifers were assessed for concentrations of agriculture-related chemicals, as well as additional nutrients and pesticides. Samples are collected to monitor trends for selected State of Nebraska Title-118 analytes that have been detected at 30% of the maximum contaminant level. Evolution of the monitoring program has increased awareness of specific contamination issues such as concentrations of nitrate.

2015 SAMPLING

  • 33 samples collected
    • 22 Platte/Elkhorn alluvial sites including 4 cluster wells: Ashland, Venice, Springfield, Elkhorn Crossing
    • 3 Dakota aquifer sites
    • 1 cluster wells in areas of interest: Tekamah

2015 RESULTS

  • Triazine was detected in 7 samples. 
  • Seven samples were analyzed for an in-depth pesticide suite.
  • Atrazine and deethylatrazine detected in 6 samples.
  • Metalochlor detected in 4 samples.
  • Atrazine degradate detected in 2 samples.
  • Propazine detected in 1 sample.
Nitrate results through 2015 for the Papio-Missouri River NRD
Nitrate results through 2015 for groundwater-quality samples collected in the Papio-Missouri River NRD.

2016 SAMPLING PLAN

  • Water from 25 sites in the Upland Alluvial Aquifer will be sampled.
  • Water from Tekamah, Springfield, Venice, and Boyer Chute well clusters will be sampled.
  • Baseline sampling of water from new cluster wells as pumps are installed.