2024 Water and Natural Resources Tour

Group of people in front of bus

The 2024 Water and Natural Resources Tour, “Discovering southeast Nebraska,” took industry experts to explore water practices in the region.

Hosted by the Nebraska Water Center and Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District, the Tour featured projects and challenges faced by the Nemaha Natural Resource District, water use in orchards, second source water projects, water treatment, and more.

“Southeast Nebraska provided such an interesting tour because it’s different from the rest of the state,” said Ann Briggs, Nebraska Water Center’s Public Relations and Engagement Coordinator, “this area receives more rainfall and is not connected to the High Plains Aquifer, requiring unique water management strategies. In addition, Nebraska City and the surrounding areas have a long and rich history due to its location on the banks of the Missouri River.”

The first day of the Tour, Monday, included visiting Nemaha NRD projects in Adams, Tecumseh, and Peru, Nebraska. Attendees visited three examples of lake and flood management at Structure 7A, Doctor’s Lake spillway, and Duck Creek Recreation Area while also visiting a recreation trail, Steamboat Trace. Kyle Hauschild, General Manager of the Nemaha NRD, provided insights on these projects.

An attendee shared that, “it was nice to tour places that the public would not normally have access to,” since many of the Tour stops included private tours or a look into ongoing projects.

While at Steamboat Trace, attendees heard from Tori Schuetz, Peru City Clerk, about the newly completed Peru and Auburn water connection that provides the Peru community with accessible and drinkable tap water which was not previously drinkable due to contaminates from the 2019 flood.

Monday included bus speakers, Lee Orton with Orton Management, who shared information on the history of NRD’s, and Katie Cameron with Lower Platte South NRD, who shared the Eastern Nebraska Water Resources Assessment and hydrogeology of the area.

The first day ended with a private tour of the Arbor Lodge State Historical Park and Mansion – a tour favorite. Participants learned about the impact of the Morton family who built the home and started the Arbor Day foundation while also listening to a former resident of the home before it became a full museum.

Tuesday continued the Tour with a presentation on the history of Nebraska City by Laura Steinman with the Arbor Day Foundation before attendees toured the Nebraska City water management facility, more Tour favorites.

Participants took a private tour of Kimmel Orchard which featured a hayrack ride and lessons about the produce growing and selection process. Over lunch, attendees listened to a presentation by Alexa Davis with the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources on the Resilient Soils and Water Quality Act.

UNL Extension speakers on Tuesday included Ritika Lamichhane who presented on Nebraska Extension’s water and cropping systems and John Nelson who presented on farming practices to reduce nitrate loss.

To end the Tour, attendees learned about the Lincoln Water 2.0 and Lead Safe Lincoln projects from Steve Owen with the City of Lincoln. Participants toured the Ashland wellfield and learned about how Lincoln gets its city water compared to the second source project which will create a different way of water access for the city. This provided the opportunity to make connections between Lincoln’s current water source project and Peru’s newly completed project.

The Tour could not happen without the local support from water professionals in Adams, Peru, Nebraska City, and Ashland.

“All of the speakers were very insightful and passionate,” an attendee said, “you could tell they care about their communities and make a lasting impact.”

The 2024 Water and Natural Resources Tour would not be possible without its sponsors, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, HDR, Olsson, Lower Platte South NRD, and Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute.

The 2025 Water and Natural Resources Tour celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Tour and will be hosted in Phoenix, Arizonia, and surrounding areas.

To learn more about past and future tours, visit watercenter.unl.edu.