A Focus on Nebraska

By Kris Polly

On our cover this month is Tom Wilmoth, a Nebraska-based water lawyer who is also a cofounder of Zipline Brewing, which has created 36 jobs with its brewery in Lincoln and retail locations in Lincoln and Omaha. Not only is making beer a way of putting water to its “highest and best use,” Zipline is also dependent on irrigated crops, such as hops and barley. 

In this issue, we also talk to several other Nebraska water professionals. Jasper Fanning of the Imperial-based Upper Republican Natural Resources District tells us about his organization’s participation in conjunctive management water projects, groundwater decline reduction activities, and the fight against nitrate contamination and blue-green algae outbreaks. Jesse Mintken of the Central Platte Natural Resources District, meanwhile, is working on flood prevention plans and the construction of flood-control levees and detention cells. We also speak with Lee Orton of the Nebraska State Irrigation Association about the organization’s advocacy for irrigation needs and irrigation activities and its involvement in an interim study into infrastructure needs being carried out by the Nebraska Legislature’s Natural Resources Committee. Finally, we talk to Ashley Babl, who is a field representative for Omaha-based Midwest Laboratories in addition to being an active farmer. Midwest Laboratories analyzes soil, water, and plant tissue samples for customers across the nation. 

If the visions of farmers and community advocates in Eastern Montana’s Prairie County come to fruition, the region may soon have a new irrigation district. Dennis Teske, the president of Teske Farms, and Beth Epley, the executive director of Eastern Plains Economic Development Corporation, tell us more about the proposed Fallon Flats Irrigation District. 

Faced with soaring demand linked to rapid urban growth, Arizona’s Roosevelt Water Conservation District needed a more streamlined way to handle its field reports. To find it, the district turned to tech company Assura, which worked with it from initial consultations to full deployment. 

Many disciplines come together to support successful irrigated agriculture: water law, flood control, groundwater management, chemical analysis, economic development, software, and more. Irrigated agriculture, in turn, provides our nation with food, fiber, and even beer. Cooperation like that is something we can all raise a glass to. 

Kris Polly is the editor-in-chief of Irrigation Leader magazine and the president 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 kris.polly@waterstrategies.com.