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News Release, Kansas Geological Survey, Dec. 12, 2007

State Survey to Measure Ground Water Levels in Western and Central Kansas

LAWRENCE--More than 500 water wells in western and south-central Kansas will be measured the first week of January by the Kansas Geological Survey, based at the University of Kansas.

Survey water specialists measure the wells annually in a cooperative program with the Division of Water Resources (DWR) of the Kansas Department of Agriculture, which will measure an additional 900 wells. Combined, the Survey and DWR measure wells in 47 counties.

Weather permitting, Survey crews will begin measurements in the areas around Colby and St. Francis on January 3 and 4, move south to the Sharon Springs and Syracuse areas on January 5 and 6, and finish up around Hugoton and Liberal on January 7.

Data collected from the wells signal changes in ground-water quantity. Most of the measured wells are drilled into the High Plains aquifer, which includes the well-known Ogallala aquifer. It underlies much of western and south-central Kansas.

"The High Plains aquifer is the primary water source for almost every single use in this region," said Brownie Wilson, Survey water-data manager. "It's a vital resource."

Landowners, municipalities, and businesses can use the water-level data when making decisions about drilling and water use. Government agencies and groundwater management districts make water-planning and water-management decisions based on the findings.

Previous annual measurements have shown an overall trend of declining water levels in the Ogallala portion of the High Plains, although specific areas may experience slight increases or no change in levels. Measurements taken in January 2006 indicated an average water-level decline of 0.57 feet in all measured wells in 2005, greater than the average decline of 0.14 feet in 2004.

The 2005 declines, however, were just half that of the annual average declines observed between 2000 and 2006--a period partially affected by drought.

Most of the measured wells are privately owned and used for irrigation. All wells are measured with the owners' permission.

"Landowners are key to this program's success," said Brett Wedel, manager of the Survey's measurement program. "Access to specific wells, many having been in the program for more than 30 years, is essential to getting a representative and historically significant sample of the aquifer."

The 1,400 wells measured by the Survey and DWR are spread throughout the High Plains region and are located approximately one to every 16-square-mile area to provide even coverage. Overall in Kansas there are approximately 35,000 permitted wells, which does not include domestic wells. About 80% of those are in the High Plains aquifer region.

Water levels are checked in January to avoid localized fluctuations in water levels caused by irrigation at other times of the year.

Measurements of individual wells made in January 2007 (as well as historical measurement data) are available at the Survey's web site ( Results of measurements made in January 2008 will be available at the same site in late February 2008.

Other information about the state's ground water is available from the KGS website. This includes a 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 Cathy Evans, (785) 864-2195.
For more information, contact Rex Buchanan (785) 864-2106

Kansas Geological Survey, Public Outreach