Nitrate contamination is a pervasive problem across agricultural regions in the United States and worldwide. In northeastern Nebraska, one area in particular, the Bazile Groundwater Management Area, suffers from nitrate infiltration into its groundwater. In response, four local natural resources districts (NRDs) have joined forces to engage in education and regulation in an effort to mitigate and reverse the nitrate issue. Our special cover story features the manager of each of the four NRDs. 

We also put the Bazile area into context with a series of stories on Nebraska. We speak with Jeff Fassett, the director of the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources, about how his agency cooperates with the NRDs; with Lyndon Vogt, the manager of the Central Platte NRD, about how his district dealt with a similar nitrate issue; and with Jessica Kolterman of Lincoln Premium Poultry about her company is ensuring that Costco’s vast new chicken facilities in Fremont, Nebraska, do not negatively affect local groundwater. 

To provide a comparative perspective, we also speak with Zoe Rodriguez del Rey of Coachella Valley Water District about California’s new Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and what it requires of groundwater managers. 

Kent Foster of Filtra Systems informs us about a new system that will be of interest to rural localities dealing with groundwater contamination: the Voyager, a mobile, trailer-based filtration facility. Municipalities that are unable to build a new water treatment center can buy one or more Voyagers or enter into a service contract with Filtra to treat their water. 

We also speak with Lee Burbery, a New Zealand–based scientist who is studying ways to mitigate nitrate pollution through wood chip barriers. Dr. Burbery tell us about the distinctive challenges of working with the alluvial gravel aquifers of New Zealand’s South Island, through which groundwater courses at a rate 100 times faster than it moves through sand. 

Nitrate contamination of groundwater is a problem that is as widespread as agriculture and which frequently poses risks to human and animal health and to local ecosystems. I hope that the stories of these intelligent and committed water managers, innovators, and researchers give you ideas for how to maintain reliable, clean water for your own users. 

Kris Polly is editor-in-chief of Irrigation Leader magazine and president and CEO of Water Strategies LLC, a government relations firm he began in February 2009 for the purpose of representing and guiding water, power, and agricultural entities in their dealings with Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other federal government agencies. He may be contacted at