Nebraska Extension issues recommended practices for emergency holding pond management during wet weather

Pumpdown Marker
Photo courtesy of Larry Howard.

May 19, 2016

Lincoln, Neb. — Many areas of Nebraska have experienced higher than normal precipitation events recently. This abnormally wet weather pattern has caused drainage and flooding issues in some parts of the state. Nebraska Extension and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality would like to remind producers and landowners to be vigilant in monitoring lagoon and runoff holding pond levels to avoid discharges from these storages.

“Even a runoff holding pond that has been perfectly managed to maintain its storage volume can experience a situation where maximum storage capacity is being approached due to chronic precipitation,” said Amy Schmidt, UNL assistant professor and livestock bioenvironmental engineer. “Nebraska Extension and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality want to ensure that producers know how to manage their storages and maintain management records to avoid or effectively manage a situation like this.”

Producers and landowners should follow these practices for emergency management of runoff holding ponds during this period of unusually wet weather:

  • Do not allow the holding pond to overflow. Application to saturated soils is preferable to allowing a storage basin to overflow.
  • When applying effluent to saturated soil, it is preferable to apply to vegetated areas such as pasture or hay to reduce the potential for runoff.
  • Utilize land that is not included in your nutrient management plan or permit for application of effluent.
  • Utilize land with the least possible slope to minimize runoff potential from effluent application.
  • Operate irrigation equipment at a minimal application rate to minimize runoff potential.
  • Use greater separation distances between application areas and water bodies than what is dictated by current regulations; a 35-foot wide vegetated buffer where the application of manure or process waste water is prohibited; or satisfactory demonstration that an alternative conservation practice provides pollutant reduction equal to or better than what would be achieved by a 100-foot setback.
  • Pumping operations should be monitored continuously to minimize potential for runoff or equipment malfunction.
  • If runoff from land application or discharge from a holding pond occurs, emergency secondary containment should be utilized as defined in your farm’s emergency response plan.
  • By law, you must notify the NDEQ of any discharge within 24 hours by telephone and within five working days by written notification. The emergency response number to call is (402) 471-4220.
  • To be considered a legal discharge, you must have records that indicate that the holding pond was below the start-pump level prior to the onset of the rain event causing the discharge.

For assistance in determining how to best manage specific wet weather conditions on your farm, contact a local NDEQ field inspector.

With 83 offices serving all 93 counties in the state, Nebraska Extension is a vital resource helping farmers translate make informed decisions using relevant research-based knowledge. Farmers and ranchers across the state count on extension research and education for crop and livestock production and stewardship. For more information, visit

Amy Millmier Schmidt
Department of Biological Systems Engineering