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News Release, Kansas Geological Survey, Dec. 16, 2009

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 about 900 wells.

Weather permitting, Survey crews will be in the areas around Colby on January 2, St. Francis and Sharon Springs on January 3, Syracuse on January 4, Hugoton on January 5, and Dodge City on January 6.

Ground water from the expansive High Plains aquifer, which underlies parts of eight states and includes the Ogallala aquifer, is the primary source of municipal, industrial, and irrigation water for much of western and central Kansas. Increased water usage over the past 60 years has caused water levels in parts of the aquifer to decline.

Ninety percent of the measured wells draw water from the High Plains aquifer. The rest draw from the deeper Dakota aquifer or shallower aquifers along creeks and rivers.

"Annual monitoring helps us to track the aquifers' changes," said Brett Wedel, manager of the Survey's measurement program. "Measuring the wells allows us to see how water levels have changed from the previous years in specific areas and as a whole."

Monitoring takes place every January, when irrigation wells are not pumping and causing water levels to fluctuate.

Landowners, who can use the collected data to make decisions about drilling and water use, grant permission for their wells to be monitored. The data also are used by state agencies to determine water appropriations and by ground-water management districts, municipalities, and businesses to manage their water resources.

Between January 2008 and January 2009, declines in ground water accelerated in southwestern Kansas, which had a dry start to the growing season. On average, levels dropped 2.85 feet, with many areas seeing declines of more than 5 feet.

In northwestern and west-central counties water levels dropped only slightly on average. In south-central counties, where precipitation was normal to above normal, levels rose slightly.

Measurements of individual wells made in January 2009 (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 Brett Wedel, (785) 864-2051

Kansas Geological Survey, Public Outreach