Water & Environment Programming

We provide research-based programs and educational materials to help you understand the value of Nebraska's natural resources and the value of good stewardship to ensure sustainability of those resources.  More information.

Fall is Ideal for Soil Amendment

By Sarah Browning, UNL Extension Horticulture Educator

Image of garden soil Soil is the key to successful plant growth, but often times existing landscape & garden soil is less than ideal, being too compacted, too heavy, too porous (sandy) or too alkaline. Fall is a great time to consider the current quality of your garden and landscape soil, and take steps to improve it if necessary.

Soil amendments can help with many common landscape problems by improving soil's water-holding capacity, increasing soil drainage, increasing nutrient levels and modifying pH level. A soil amendment is any material mixed into the soil to change one of these characteristics- compared to mulch that is applied on top of the soil. Mulches are used to moderate the soil temperature, prevent weed growth and reduce soil moisture evaporation.

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Lead in Drinking Water Part I: Sources, Health Effects, and Testing
By Sharon Skipton, UNL Extension Water Quality Educator

Lead rarely occurs naturally in drinking water. Most lead contamination takes place at some point in the water delivery system. This occurs as a result of corrosion, the reaction between the drinking water and lead that was used in the water delivery system.

The characteristics of water vary greatly depending on the source of the water. Some water is naturally more corrosive. Several factors cause water to be corrosive, including low pH (pH less than 8.0), high temperature, low total dissolved solids (TDS) content, and high amounts of dissolved oxygen or carbon dioxide. Generally, naturally soft water is more corrosive than hard water because it is more acidic and has low TDS. Treating naturally hard water with an ion exchange water softening unit, reverse osmosis unit, or distillation unit may change the water chemistry enough to have an effect on the water's ability to dissolve lead.

Lead in drinking water from plumbing or a fixture is most often a problem in either very old or very new homes and buildings. However, any home or building may be susceptible.

Through the early 1900s it was common to use lead pipes for interior plumbing. Lead piping is most likely found in homes built before 1930. Copper piping replaced lead piping, but lead-based solder was used to join copper piping. Lead-based solder probably was used in any home built before 1988. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a public drinking water rule in 1991 that emphasized eliminating lead from components of the water delivery system.

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Now Available

Water Wise: Tree Selection and Tree Care, EC 302

This publication provides information on the value of trees; how to choose the best tree species for various parts of the landscape; and how to properly install and care for them in a water-conserving and drought-conscious manner.

Small Scale Farming Workshop, November 8th
"Small Spaces, Bit Potential"

Looking to learn how to produce your own food or start a diversified agriculture business on your acreage or in your backyard? UNL Extension will be hosting a third installment of "Small Spaces, Big Potential": a Small Scale Farming Workshop on Saturday, November 8th in Nebraska City at the Kimmel Education and Research Center (5985 G Road) beginning at 8:45 am and running till 4:30 pm.

The workshop will feature presentations by local farmers and UNL Extension personnel. Breakout session topics and presenters will include:

  • Basics of Backyard Poultry and Rabbits, - Brett Kreifels, UNL Extension;
  • Aquaponics – Gregg Fripp, Whispering Roots;
  • Growing Hops – Shad Reynolds, Nebraska Hop Growers;
  • Raising Bees in Urban Areas – Tony Sandoval, Omaha Beekeepers;
  • Operating a Pumpkin Patch Enterprise – Teresa Lorensen, Bloom Where You're Planted Farm;
  • Xeric Gardening – Nicole Stoner and John Fech, UNL Extension.

The day will also include a general session with Brad Kindler entitled "Cows, Oaks, & Art" and will discuss ag restoration. Brad is a recently returned Peace Corp volunteer, who has been actively involved in sustainable agriculture since 2003, he is currently working at Branched Oak Farm and is developing an Orchard and market garden.  The day will conclude with a presentation on FSA programs for Small and Beginning Farmers by Wes Finkner, Farm Service Agency.

The cost to attend if pre-registered is $35 per individual, $50 per couple, and $10 per youth participant. Registration at the door will be: $45 per individual, $60 per couple, and $20 per youth.  For questions or to pre-register contact the Nemaha County Extension Office (402-274-4755).