Water Wells Not Properly Abandoned Pose Hazards to Water Quality, People and Animals

Unused water wells left unsecure are a hazard to water quality, people, livestock, and pets. The Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District (Papio NRD) is aiming to help educate landowners within its six-county area of the importance of abandoning unused wells, as well the cost-share program it provides to help with the associated expense.

Wells that aren’t properly abandoned provide a pipeline to groundwater and can be easily polluted with chemicals, fertilizers, and other contaminates. They can also pose safety risks to people and animals that may not see the wells and become trapped or potentially seriously injured.

“To help eliminate or reduce these hazards and assist landowners with the cost of abandoning unused wells, the Papio NRD provides the Well Abandonment Program,” said Terry Schumacher, land and water programs coordinator for the Papio NRD.

The Well Abandonment Program provides cost-share at a rate of 75% of the total eligible costs with a maximum of $750 for domestic drilled wells; $1,000 for dug wells; and $1,500 for city, irrigation, commercial or municipal wells.

Ed Thiele, project engineer for Habitat for Humanity of Omaha, took part in the program, as the organization is developing sites in Sarpy and Douglas counties to build new homes. “We decommissioned three wells in Sarpy County and two in Douglas County,” said Thiele.

“Obviously, we want to make sure the land is safe before construction starts and families move in. The Papio NRD’s cost-share program was of tremendous value for us on many fronts and I would most definitely recommend it to others,” said Thiele.

Eligible costs of the program include pulling rods and pump, filling cistern, chlorination, sand, bentonite, plug, and concrete. A State of Nebraska licensed well contractor, driller or pump installer must complete the abandonment to proper Department of Natural Resources rules and regulations.

“It’s really a win-win opportunity,” said Schumacher. “Our program offers landowners and others, like Habitat for Humanity, significant financial assistance to help protect our drinking water, groundwater, the public and make the process as easy as possible.”

For more information, please contact one of our Field Office representatives in your county:

Washington, Douglas & Sarpy counties: Kalani Fortina at 402-426-4782 ext. 3
Burt County: Deb Ward at 402-374-1920 ext. 3
Thurston County: Tamara Tipton at 402-846-5655
Dakota County: Mahkenna Koinzan at 402-494-4949



Applications Open for Papio NRD’s 2024 Celebrate Trees Grant Program

Spruce trees planted at Veteran’s Park in Papillion through the Papio NRD’s Celebrate Trees Grant Program.

Applications are open for the Papio NRD’s Celebrate Trees Grant Program. The program provides funding for tree planting on public land for community benefit. Parks, cemeteries, tribal lands, libraries, and villages within the six counties of the Papio NRD are encouraged to apply.

Grants are awarded a maximum of $2,500 or $250 per tree. Matching funds are not required, but applicants should plan to do mulching, staking, watering, and other care to ensure a successful planting.

Applications are funded using a ranking system that places a higher emphasis on public parks and the replacement of diseased and storm-damaged trees.

The deadline to submit applications is February 15, 2024. Please contact Kalani Fortina (402) 426-4782 ext. 3 or Kalani.Fortina@usda.gov for more information.

Pollinator Safety Corners: Papio NRD Program Making Rural Intersections Safer

When corn is high, four-way intersections in rural counties can become dangerous. Tall crops often obstruct the line-of-sight needed at these intersections. The Papio NRD, along with Pheasants Forever, The Nebraska Environmental Trust, and Nebraska Game & Parks offer a cost-share program to improve safety while also providing a benefit to the ecosystem.

A Pollinator Safety Corner in Washington County on year two of its contract.
Photo courtesy of Armando Zarco.

The Pollinator Safety Corners Program allows landowners to take one to three acres at a four-way rural intersection out of crop production and seeded into a mix of short, native grasses or pollinator habitat. Landowners receive 75% cost-share on seed mix. In addition, the program provides an annual payment of $250/acre for 5 years. Landowners within the 319 Papillion Creek Watershed receive $350/acre annually. Some participants even choose to install bee boxes on their safety corners.

With your participation, we can make these intersections safer for our communities and beneficial for pollinators. Contact Kalani Fortina in the Blair office at (402) 426-4782 ext. 101 or Kalani.Fortina@usda.gov for more information.

Sign Up for New Blair Field Office Newsletter

The Blair Field Office is starting a monthly newsletter! Stay in the loop on conservation programs (and much more) that benefit you, your neighbors, and your land.

See your tax dollars at work in your inbox or mailbox, whichever you prefer.

Signing up is easy! Simply contact Kalani Fortina at kalani.fortina@usda.gov or (402) 426-4782 ext. 110.