COLUMBUS, Neb. (AP) — The Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District is taking an expensive, high-tech look at groundwater levels in Colfax County in an effort to better budget water use during drought.
The district is paying $200,000 to a Mississippi company to study the groundwater under approximately 36 square miles in the Clarkson and Howells areas. Officials said that decision was made after water supplies in those areas came dangerously close to running dry during last year's drought.
Next week, Exploration Resources International of Vicksburg, Miss., will use low-flying helicopters outfitted with instruments that can "see" hundreds of feet below the surface.
Data collected during the flights will be used to create a three-dimensional map of the area that includes the location and size of groundwater aquifers. That should help officials decide whether there is enough water for continued use during dry spells, or whether restrictions are needed.
"Without having this information there's no way we can make that call," the district's water resources manager, Rick Wozniak, said.
Wozniak said this map should be completed by late December or early January. A University of Nebraska-Lincoln hydrogeologist can then use the data to determine where testing wells need to be installed to monitor groundwater levels.
Ultimately, the district wants to create a water budget for the area to determine whether the current usage level there is sustainable, Wozniak said.
The district is also applying for grant money to complete a larger groundwater study that covers the eastern third of the state, he said.
"Quite frankly, I'm hoping that this will be the first of many flights that we do," Wozniak said.
Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.