Farmers try bio-reactors for cleaner groundwater

Nebraska farmers are experimenting with new ways to keep groundwater clean. What’s called a “bio-reactor” is being touted as a way to keep nutrients that run off fields from entering waterways. Roger Wolf, an agricultural environmentalist, says the tile bio-reactor is installed at the outlet of a tile line to reduce nitrate levels in the discharge.

Wolf explains what it is and how it works. “It’s a large hole in the ground that’s filled full of wood chips and we flood those wood chips with water,” Wolf says. “The wood chips allow microbial activity to occur and that’s how the process works.”

The premiere bio-reactor was built in central Iowa last fall near Jefferson. Wolf says they’re carefully monitoring the water going into and out of the system and they’re seeing a dramatic reduction in nitrate levels — up to 70-percent. At least one more bio-reactor is now operating and several more are in the planning stages.