Drought conditions

Parts of Northeast and North Central Nebraska are suffering from drought conditions, ranging from abnormally dry (yellow) to moderate drought (tan) to severe drought (orange) to extreme drought (red). 

A new ordinance updates restrictions on water usage in Norfolk in case of severe shortages.

The city council approved the ordinance at Monday night’s meeting. The ordinance divides water shortages into three categories with accompanying restrictions:

— Moderate shortage: The city will ask for a voluntary decrease in water usage (most of which comes from watering lawns).

— Severe shortage: A mandatory restriction on watering lawns, limiting it to two days a week. There are exemptions for the Norfolk Parks and Recreation Division, new sod and seeding, handheld containers for indoor and outdoor watering and private water source usage.

— Critical shortage: No lawn watering is allowed, but the same exceptions exist as in a severe shortage.

Dennis Watts, the city’s water and sewer director, said the restrictions would go into effect only in “very rare” circumstances.

“We’re just trying to be prepared if something would happen,” he said. “We kind of want to be on the front end of being prepared to make the right decision.”

Watts said the exemption for the parks and recreation division was put in place because of the need to keep sports fields in good condition, which could cost the city money, otherwise.

A similar ordinance already existed, but Watts said the new ordinance implements restrictions based on data such as water levels, water usage, time of year and forecast.

“We’ve always had water restriction on the books. The last code change was in 1988, so this is kind of updating it,” Watts said. “What we’re doing is we’re trying to base the need for water restriction on more objective data.”

The last time water was restricted in Norfolk was for a brief period in 1978, Watts said.

Mayor Josh Moenning said he thought the ordinance was sensible and reasonable.

“I know this was quite a bit of work to put into place, and I appreciate your diligence in doing that,” he told Watts. “To me, this is only prudent to have a framework in place that promotes preservation and conservation of a resource when it’s necessary. I think this is a very reasonable measure.”

IN MARCH, the council approved a code encouraging even- and odd-numbered properties to water their lawns on opposite days of the week.

Mondays and Wednesdays tend to be big days for lawn irrigation, putting a lot of stress on the system, lowering water pressure and making sprinkler systems less effective, Watts said.

The code states that properties with even addresses should irrigate their lawns Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, Watts said, and properties with odd addresses should irrigate their lawns Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

(Original story was posted at 7:05 p.m. July 19. It was updated with information at 9:04 a.m. July 20.)

The Norfolk City Council met Monday at 5:30 p.m. at the Norfolk City Council chambers.

Council members present: Mayor Josh Moenning, Kory Hildebrand, Frank Arens, Gary L. Jackson, Rob Merrill, Fred Wiebelhaus, Thad Murren, Shane Clausen and Corey Granquist.

Council members absent: None

Meeting lasted: 30 minutes.

Others in attendance: City staff, media representatives and nine from the public.


— Amended the redevelopment plan for the Legacy Bend Redevelopment Area Phase III.

— Approved contract for the Norfolk Transfer Station site improvements project for an amount of $4.35 million.

— Passed Ordinance No. 5742 amending Section 26-3 of the city code related to water emergency restriction.

— Approved an engineering design services contract for the Johnson Park final design project for an amount not to exceed $285,402.


— Presentation by Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District of a grant check for Riverpoint Square.

— Recognition of Officer James Heller.

In other news

CONCORD — Livestock owners, forage producers and all those interested in forage production are encouraged to attend the 2021 Forage Field Days, presented jointly by South Dakota State University Extension and Nebraska Extension.

LINCOLN — The state has issued a health alert for Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB), also known as toxic blue-green algae, at Maskenthine Reservoir in Stanton County and Willow Creek Reservoir in Pierce County.