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News Release, Kansas Geological Survey, Dec. 9, 2008

Kansas Geological Survey to Measure Water Levels in Western and Central Kansas

LAWRENCE--Water specialists from the Kansas Geological Survey, based at the University of Kansas, will be in central and western Kansas in early January measuring water well levels.

As part of an annual cooperative program, the Survey will measure more than 500 wells and the Division of Water Resources (DWR) of the Kansas Department of Agriculture will measure 900 wells.

Weather permitting, Survey crews will be in the areas around Colby January 4, St Francis and Goodland January 5, Syracuse January 6, Hugoton January 7, and Meade January 8.

Ground water is the primary water source in the 47 counties with wells included the Survey and DWR program. The two agencies monitor the wells every year to detect regional water-level trends over time so that ground-water resources can be effectively managed.

"The state's aquifers are like a budget," said Brownie Wilson, Survey water-data manager. "If more water comes out than goes in, the resource begins to decline, which has been the case primarily in parts of the Ogallala portion of the High Plains aquifer and in some localized areas in south-central Kansas."

Ninety percent of the measured wells draw water from the extensive High Plains aquifer, which includes the Ogallala aquifer. The rest are in the deeper Dakota aquifer or in alluvial systems--shallower aquifers along creeks and rivers. Most are privately owned and used for irrigation.

Wells are monitored with the permission of the landowners, who can use the collected data to make decisions about drilling and water use. The data also are used by state agencies to determine water appropriations and by ground-water management districts, municipalities, businesses, and the general public.

A compilation of the annual measurements shows how the aquifers behave over time under varying climatic and pumping conditions.

"We try to measure the same wells at the same time each year to produce consistent data year after year," said Brett Wedel, manager of the Survey's measurement program. "January is the best time to measure because most wells are not pumping and water levels are not fluctuating due to usage."

Between early 2007 and January 2008 the average overall water level rose slightly for the 1,400-well network because far-above-average precipitation led to unusually high increases in south-central Kansas ground-water levels. Those increases offset continued declines in southwestern Kansas, where precipitation remained below normal and water levels dropped an average of 1.65 feet.

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

Other information about the state's ground water is available from the KGS website, including 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 Brownie Wilson (785) 864-2118, or Brett Wedel, (785) 864-2051

Kansas Geological Survey, Public Outreach