Focus On Water
NDEE Water Programs
Nebraska Water Quality:
A Brief Overview
The goal of the Water Quality Divisions are to protect the surface and groundwater resources in Nebraska.
Nebraska has some of the best water resources in the nation and the world. Groundwater (located beneath the state’s surface in porous regions known as aquifers) could cover the state with nearly 40 feet of water if it were all pumped to the surface. Because groundwater is so plentiful and reliable, 85% of the state’s population uses groundwater as drinking water.

Nebraska’s surface water resources are surprisingly extensive, including approximately 18,000 miles of continuously flowing rivers and streams and about 430 square miles of lakes.

Wildlife, including many native fish species, rely on Nebraska’s streams for survival and prosperity.

Many challenges face Nebraskans when trying to protect this valuable resource. Runoff from rain and irrigation can carry chemicals and topsoil into streams in both urban and rural areas, causing surface water contamination. More than 50 years of crop production has allowed fertilizers and ag chemicals to reach groundwater in parts of the state, causing contamination.

Programs in the Water Quality Division

Groundwater -- The Groundwater programs include the Groundwater Management area Program, Underground Injection Control, Mineral Exploration and Wellhead Protection. The program also issues an annual report to the Legislature concerning groundwater quality in Nebraska, and is responsible for hydrogeologic review of various Department programs.

Petroleum Remediation -- The Petroleum Remediation Program involves two inter-related program areas: overseeing the investigation and cleanup of petroleum contamination resulting from leaking above-ground and underground storage tanks; and administering financial assistance for persons responsible for investigation and cleanup costs due to petroleum releases from tanks.

Surface Water -- The Surface Water Monitoring and Assessment programs collect physical, chemical, and biological water quality samples from streams and lakes, implements surface water improvement projects, and prepare surface water quality reports.

Planning  -- The Water Quality Planning Unit is involved with multiple programs, including: 

Programs in the Water Permits Division

Agriculture -- The Agriculture Section’s programs consist of the Livestock Waste Control Program, the Chemigation Program and the Agricultural Chemical Containment Program.

State Revolving Fund (SRF) Section -- NDEE, in coordination with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services Division of Public Health, distributes funds from two major revolving loan fund programs. These two programs – the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund (for wastewater treatment facilities) and the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund.

Wastewater -- The Wastewater Section administers the construction permit program for new and modified wastewater treatment facilities and collection systems built in the state.

Permitting -- All persons discharging or proposing to discharge pollutants from a point source into any waters of the state are required to apply for and have a permit under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) to discharge including all significant industrial users discharging to a publicly owned treatment works.

Water Quality Publications