Rural Water

Poor water quality and availability of water has been a problem in some areas of the District. A solution to this problem has been addressed by the construction of two public water supply systems in the south-eastern section of the District. Connection information

Rules and Regulations

New Water Rates Effective September 1, 2015

Emergency Plan for Demand Reduction

Little Blue Public Water Project North

The Little Blue Public Water Project serves over 284 Domestic, livestock and business hookups in eastern Thayer County and west and central Jefferson Counties, including the villages of Gilead and Gladstone.  Water is purchased from the City of Fairbury and piped through over 120 miles of buried lines to provide quality water service (view map). Low water availability and poor water quality were serious issues facing the residents of the Little Blue NRD’s southeastern region.  Area residents had been exposed to poor water quality problems such as high nitrates, sodium, iron and sulfur with extreme hardness and odor present.  The need for a quality water source had become a major concern for the area. The Little Blue Public Water Project was completed in 1976 with the objective of supplying continuous, quality water service to residents of the area. The Project is financially self supporting and operates almost exclusively (96%) on water sales income from the customers.

Little Blue Public Water Project South

The Little Blue Public Water Project – South provides water service to over 145 customers, many of who are in the area south of Fairbury, NE as well as just across the border into central Kansas.

Water for this Project is also purchased from the City of Fairbury and distributed to provide quality water to residents of the area.

Construction of the Little Blue Public Water Project South was completed in 1999.  Funding for the Project was made available through a grant from USDA Rural Development Water 2000 initiative in the amount of $1,067,900, a loan in the amount of $873,800, $116,550 in user fees, $30,000 from the existing Little Blue NRD Water Project and a Kansas Community Development Block Grant in the amount of $220,000.

The Project consists of 110 miles of buried pipeline (view map), a newly erected 75,000 gallon water tower and 2 new booster stations.

The Rural Water Project is willing to accept new customers if they reside in rural areas of southeast Thayer or southwest Jefferson counties in Nebraska or northern Washington County in Kansas.   Please give the NRD office a call at (402)364-2145 if you would like more information.


Who is the Little Blue Valley Water System (LBVWS)?     The Little Blue Valley Water System is an entity comprised of board members from the City of Fairbury and Little Blue NRD that is overseeing and will manage the project.  Through this entity, water will be sold to both the City of Fairbury and the Little Blue NRD at a cost established by the USDA based on the funding of the project.
 What is the water sourcing project? The project is an opportunity to jointly pursue and procure a new water source with lower nitrates that benefits both entities.  Drinking water with nitrates over 10 mg/L or parts per million (ppm) is considered an exceedance of a drinking water standard.   Nitrates in the current water source (Crystal Springs and the East Wells) have and will likely remain high due to several reasons.  In particular, nitrates tend to stay (float) at the top of the water table. Crystal Springs is composed of a shallow well (less than 50 feet deep) and is categorized by the NE DHHS as ground water under the influence of surface water (GWUDI). This classification requires additional standards for treatment due to the elevated risk of contamination from surface water. With the amount of water used from Crystal Springs (greater than 1,000 gallons per minute), nitrates cannot be controlled. In addition to nitrates, and because Crystal Springs is GWUDI, it requires treatment which also has a cost associated with it.12-31-21 WATER SOURCING PROJECT NITRATE TABLE
What is the goal of the project? The goal is to secure a water source for the City of Fairbury and Little Blue NRD that will be low in nitrates for a long period of time and will not require the same level of treatment as Crystal Springs does.
Why is this new targeted area going to have better water?

Data suggests the targeted area for this project will produce quality water that is low in nitrates (approximately 3-4 ppm compared to the 7.5 ppm – 8.5 ppm trending with the current water supply).  However, since you cannot rely solely upon regional data, drilling test holes and test wells will verify the areas nitrates concentration.  

In addition to the expected low nitrate tests, the project plans to drill five wells that are greater than 150 feet each in depth.   Taking into consideration nitrates tend to float at the top of the water table, the projected water demand will pump three (3) wells at 500 gpm (gallons per minute) for a total of 1,500 gpm (at a maximum) reducing the amount of nitrates pulled into the water from the top.   This method has been referred to “pumping low and slow” and will help to control the amount of nitrates in the water.   Lower pumping, greater depth to water and improved well construction methods will provide better protection than the current water supply wells.

Is the water quality to the north or west of the targeted area high in nitrates and will it impact this project? Ground water elevations indicate that should occur; but sampling indicates nitrate concentrations have NOT risen in the target area within the last 20 years.  Nitrate results collected in 2020 in the target area from 17 wells show an average concentration of 3.67 ppm.  This data is collected from irrigation wells which draw water from the entire depth of saturated thickness while the new wells will be designed to pull water from the bottom of the aquifer.
Are any of the identified potential wells in a flood plain? No, none of the potential wells are located in a mapped flood plain.
If you are only using three wells at 500 gpm, why are you drilling five wells? The project plans to have three wells pumping 500 gpm to meet peak demands.  In order to avoid over pumping an area, the intent is to have 5 wells that will be alternated after each time the Fairbury water tower needs to be filled.  The use of five wells will also ensure that if there were an issue with one of the wells, there are still wells able to produce the water demand needed while the issues are being addressed.
Where is the project as it currently stands? The project is still in the early planning stages.  The LBVWS has submitted for funding through the USDA-RD for the consolidation project.  The first step is to locate a new source area and verify quantity and quality of the selected area.  Test holes are scheduled to be drilled in the targeted area early next year.  With positive results, a revised cost estimate will be presented to both the City of Fairbury and Little Blue NRD for review and consideration before presenting the new cost of the project to USDA to finalize funding.
What is the cost of the project?

The project was originally forecast to be approximately $7 million as a whole between the City of Fairbury and the LBNRD for the new source.  However, this was based on a targeted area just north of Fairbury which reached slightly into the Lower Big Blue’s territory.   Unfortunately, the landowners in the area were not interested in participating in the project and Lower Big Blue communicated the project would not be permitted to transfer water out of their territory.  A new targeted area was identified within the Little Blue NRD’s territory approximately 3 miles to the west which increased the amount of pipe needed to bring the water to the City of Fairbury’s water tower.  In addition to more pipe, the price of the project has risen due to supply chain issues and the bidding environment.  Based on these changes, it is estimated the cost will now run approximately $9.4 — $10.3 million.  Both estimated costs include a 10% contingency ($1 million).


The total estimated cost of the project is split between the City of Fairbury (71.43%) and Little Blue NRD (28.57%) based upon the amount of water each entity will be using (1,000 gpm for the City of Fairbury and 400 gpm for Little Blue NRD).  


Therefore, the total estimated cost for the City of Fairbury is expected to be between $6.7 million — $7.4 million, depending on the bidding environment and cost of pipe.


The total cost for Little Blue NRD is anticipated to be approximately $2.7 million — $3 million, again, depending upon the bidding environment and cost of pipe.

Why seek out a new water source and not treat the water quality (i.e., build a nitrate plant?)

The answer is three-fold:

  1.  The new well site would not be classified as ground water under the influence of Surface water and the treatment requirements are less restrictive.  
  2. Preliminary data collected for this project indicates that nitrates will be low (less than 5 ppm).  This area has been historically low for over 20 years.   Good water without chemical treatment for the public is the better solution.
  3. Based on literature values for treatment of constructing a nitrate plant (without going to bid) based upon the quantity of water the City of Fairbury and its outlying customers currently use will run approximately $10,000,000.  In addition to the initial cost of construction, there is an on-going annual cost to maintain the plant and dispose of the nitrates estimated at approximately $350,000-500,000 per year.  The cost of a nitrate plant and maintenance thereof will likely result in a higher user (customer) cost as compared to securing a new water source.   In the event treatment were ever needed, a larger customer base coupled with a higher water quality to begin with will lower the operation and maintenance costs.  
What is the proposed water use? The LBVWS entity will serve the same customer area the City of Fairbury currently serves.   The City of Fairbury currently provides water to the Little Blue NRD.  The LBVWS entity was formed to deliver a similar quantity of water with better quality than the City of Fairbury currently provides.   The project is seeking to secure a conservation easement of over 640 acres for the LBVWS public water supply.   Thus, pumping will be reduced from the existing Fairbury wellfields proportionally to what is withdrawn from the new proposed well site.   The new domestic water source with improved water quality will be protected by the conservation easement.   
How long will it be before the project is complete?   The project is expected to be completed sometime during the second half of 2023.  This timeline could change slightly based on the bidding environment and the supply chain.
How will the customer base know of the projects’ status? The LBVWS, on behalf of the City of Fairbury and Little Blue NRD is committed to providing updates on the project and ensure there is transparency.   The communications prepared by the LBVWS will be provided to the media.  The City of Fairbury and Little Blue NRD will also communicate these updates on a regular basis.

Connection Information

****Currently the Project is unable to accept new connections. This is due to capacity issues of pumping equipment and limitations within the agreement between the Project and the city of Fairbury.****

Steps for adding a new connection to the Water Projects (if connections are taken in the future):

  • Contact the Little Blue NRD
  • Sign an easement for service to the line
  • Complete Water user Agreement which would include a connection fee of $1,500
  • Pay for the cost of installation of water lines to the new connection

The initial project construction is being repaid by the users of the project, any costs associated with connecting to the rural Water Project since the initial loan was taken are charged to the new consumer. Thereafter their monthly bill for water delivered helps defray the cost of the Project to which they are connected.

Contacts for the Rural Water Projects:

  • Kevin Orvis, Projects Manager (402) 364-2145
  • Bruce Dux, Water Project Superintendent (402) 300-0523
  • Paula Schultz, Billing (402) 729-6134 ext. 3