"Nebraska" comes from an Oto Indian word meaning "flat
water," referring to the Platte River. York County is south
of the Platte River and is drained by the Big
Blue River, Beaver Creek, Lincoln Creek, and Coon Creek. Early
settlers hauled water from natural springs, dug wells by hand,
or dug ditches to water their crops. Windmills were vital to
pumping water for crops, livestock, and household use in the
1920s. Today's farmers use windmills mostly to pump water for
livestock. Irrigation wells are pumped with diesel or electric motors.
In the 1920s, York County farmers began to use groundwater
for irrigating crops, but it wasn't until the late 1930s that
farmers drilled very deep wells and pumped water to the surface
with gasoline or diesel powered pumps. Later, farmers used
a series of tubes and gates to move water from deep wells
to crops in the fields. Today, Nebraska is a leader in the
use of center pivot irrigation, pumping water from deep below
ground to irrigate crops.
Written by Claudia Reinhardt.