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News Release, Kansas Geological Survey, Feb. 9, 2004

Water Levels Decline in Central and Western Kansas, Though Not as Much as Last Year

LAWRENCE--Groundwater levels measured in wells in central and western Kansas were down an average of about 1.2 feet from January 2003 to January 2004, according to preliminary analyses by researchers at the Kansas Geological Survey, based at the University of Kansas.

The decline was less than the previous year's drop, which averaged nearly 2 feet, but generally more than average declines in the mid to late 1990s.

Those numbers are based on 1250 wells in central and western Kansas that were measured in 2003 and 2004 by the Kansas Geological Survey and the Division of Water Resources of the Kansas Department of Agriculture. Since 1996, crews generally measure about 1350 wells each year under this cooperative program. However, not every well can be measured every year. Most of the wells that are measured are used for irrigation.

This year's declines may have been lessened somewhat because drought has been less severe in some parts of the state, when compared to the previous summer.

"The amount and timing of precipitation can greatly affect the amount of water that is pumped each year, which, in turn, affects the water table," said Survey water scientist Brownie Wilson.

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

"This year's declines may be less than last year's, but they are still substantial in some areas," said Wilson. "Decline rates are only part of the story in understanding the state's aquifers. A low decline rate may still be very significant in areas where water supplies in the aquifer are diminished. And higher declines may be less significant in places where groundwater is readily available."

Water level changes varied across the state.

On the average, wells measured in west-central Kansas, in an area covered by Groundwater Management District #1, dropped 1 foot from 2003 to 2004. That compares with a decline of 1.44 feet the previous year. In northwestern Kansas, or Groundwater Management District #4, the decline was just less than 1 foot, compared to slightly less than 1.5 feet last year. And in southwestern Kansas, Groundwater Management District #3, the average decline was just less than 2 feet, compared to 3.35 feet the previous year.

These three areas are those generally underlain by the Ogallala aquifer, the primary water source for much of western Kansas.

Water-level declines were the least in south-central Kansas, where water tables are generally shallower and annual precipitation is higher. In the area north of Wichita, covered by the Equus Beds Groundwater Management District, the decline averaged 0.23 feet, compared to 0.61 feet the previous year. In the Big Bend Groundwater Management District, the area generally south of Great Bend, declines averaged 1.17 feet, compared to nearly 2 feet the previous year.

Results of the 2004 measurements for individual wells will be available electronically by mid-February (at The data base will provide information on wells and can be searched according to legal description, latitude and longitude, county, or groundwater management district.

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