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News Release, Kansas Geological Survey, Dec. 12, 2005

Survey to Measure Water Wells in Western Kansas

LAWRENCE--Water specialists from the Kansas Geological Survey, based at the University of Kansas, will measure water levels in more than 500 water wells in western Kansas beginning January 4, 2006.

The measurements will be made in cooperation with the Division of Water Resources of the Kansas Department of Agriculture, which measures an additional 700 wells. Together the Survey and the Division measure wells in 47 counties in the south-central and western parts of the state.

The results are used by water managers and agencies to monitor and interpret general trends in ground-water levels in Kansas. Private landowners and businesses also rely on the information in making water-related decisions. Most of the measured wells are used for irrigation and tap into the High Plains aquifer, which includes the well-known Ogallala aquifer. The High Plains aquifer underlies much of western and central Kansas.

The wells are generally measured in January, after the end of the irrigation season.

"To produce consistent data, we measure the same wells at about the same time each year using the same proven methods," said Brownie Wilson, water-data manager for the Survey and one of the staff measuring wells this year.

Weather permitting, Survey crews will begin measurements in northwestern and west-central Kansas on January 4 and 5, then move south, working in the area around Syracuse on January 6, and the area around Hugoton on January 7. They will complete measurements around Liberal on January 8, depending on weather and road conditions.

Last year's measurements showed that average water levels dropped about 0.3 feet in southwestern Kansas, 0.5 feet in northwestern Kansas, and held about steady in west-central Kansas from January 2004 to January 2005.

Declines in several previous years were generally greater, in large part because dry weather led to greater pumping for irrigation. From 2000 to 2005, levels dropped a total of 8.9 feet in southwestern Kansas, 4.7 feet in northwestern Kansas, and 3.6 feet in west-central Kansas.

High energy prices in the past year made irrigation more expensive and may have affected pumping rates and declines.

Measurements of individual wells made in January 2005 (as well as historical measurement data) are now available at the Survey's web site ( Results of measurements made in January 2006 will be available at the same site in early February 2006.

Other information about the state's ground water is available from the KGS web site. This includes a new site dedicated to water right information,

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
Water Levels--The KGS Water Information Storage and Retrieval (WIZARD) Database
Water Rights--Water Information Management and Analysis System (WIMAS) website

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

Kansas Geological Survey, Public Outreach