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University of Nebraska–Lincoln

UNL Extension in Lancaster County

Natural Resources

THE WATERWHEEL: A series dedicated to one of our most treasured resources - Water

THE WATERWHEEL - Understanding Groundwater

by Don Janssen, UNL Extension Educator

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Water WheelWater is the life blood of every living creature on earth. Though groundwater is the source of water for about half of all Americans, its location makes it mysterious. Groundwater is stored between particles of sand, gravel, rock and other materials. It moves very slowly in response to water level differences. Nebraska groundwater typically moves between one-third of a foot to three feet per day.

Nebraska is blessed with part of the largest underground water supply in the world, the Ogallala aquifer. If all groundwater under Nebraska was pumped onto the soil surface, it would cover the state with nearly 40 feet of water.

Groundwater is the source for nearly all rural domestic water use in Nebraska and 80 to 85 percent of the public water supply. Irrigation is the largest user of groundwater in Nebraska. Precipitation is the primary source of groundwater recharge. In some locations ground-water levels have been lowered by up to 30 feet as a result of pumping. In other locations where surface water is used, groundwater levels have risen.

This article appeared in the NEBLINE Newsletter.


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PHOTO Credit: Rita Shelley

Contact Information

University of Nebraska-Lincoln in Lancaster County
Web site: lancaster.unl.edu
444 Cherrycreek Road, Suite A, Lincoln, NE 68528 | 402-441-7180



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