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News Release, Kansas Geological Survey, Feb. 19, 2003

Groundwater Declines Average Two Feet in Central, Western Kansas

LAWRENCE--Groundwater levels measured in wells in central and western Kansas declined an average of slightly less than two feet from January 2002 to January 2003, according to preliminary analyses by scientists at the Kansas Geological Survey, based at the University of Kansas.

That decline compares with an average drop of about one foot during the previous year.

Those numbers are based on 1070 wells in central and western Kansas that are measured every year from 1996 to 2003 by the Survey and the Division of Water Resources of the Kansas Department of Agriculture. Since 1996, crews attempt to measure about 1400 wells under this cooperative program, but not every well can be measured every year.

The results are considered provisional and are still being analyzed by Survey scientists.

Most of the wells that were measured are used for irrigation, and this year's larger decline is likely related to extended dry weather. When less rain falls, irrigators pump additional water from their wells, with a resulting impact on water levels. In addition, warmer and drier weather during this winter resulted in the continued operation of a number of wells in the areas where measurements were taken, which also had an impact on water levels.

Water level changes varied across the state.

On average, wells measured in west-central Kansas, Groundwater Management District No. 1, dropped about 1.2 feet last year, compared to 0.7 feet of decline the previous year. In northwestern Kansas, Groundwater Management District No. 4, the decline averaged about 1.5 feet in 2002-03, compared to 0.2 feet the previous year. And in southwestern Kansas, covered by Groundwater Management District No. 3, the decline was the greatest, averaging 3 feet in 2002-03, compared to 1.6 feet in 2001-02.

In south-central Kansas, water levels declined a little less than the statewide average: about 1.3 feet in the Big Bend Groundwater Management District south of Great Bend, Kansas, compared to a decline of about 0.6 foot in 2001-02. The decline was about 0.4 feet last year in the Equus Beds Groundwater Management District, north of Wichita, compared to 1.1 in 2001-02. The Equus Beds district is the only groundwater management district in the state where the average decline in 2003 was less than the previous year.

The results of the 2003 measurements for individual wells are now available from the Survey's newly refurbished web site (at At the site, users can pick the well or wells they are interested in, either by legal description, the latitude and longitude, the county, or the groundwater management district. By clicking on the "select wells" button, users retrieve all water well records for the well or wells in the area they've selected. Click on "create map" and users can map the wells they've selected. The "regional trends" button provides a simple graph of water-level changes for all the wells they've selected.

"This newly enhanced web site does more than provide data," said Survey water-data manager Brownie Wilson. "The site turns that data into information that can help guide decisions."

Links of interest to this article:
Reports on Water Levels
KGS Public Information Circular 12--"Measuring Water Levels in Kansas," by Richard D. Miller, Rex Buchanan and Liz Brosius
WIZARD--The KGS Water Information Storage and Retrieval Database

Story by Rex Buchanan, (785) 864-2106
For more information, contact Brownie Wilson, (785) 864-2118

Kansas Geological Survey, Public Outreach