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News Release, Kansas Geological Survey, Dec. 5, 1995

Water Levels Down Last Year

LAWRENCE--Groundwater levels in western Kansas were down significantly in January of 1995, when compared to water levels measured a year earlier, according to a new report from the Kansas Geological Survey, based at The University of Kansas.

The declines probably resulted from dry weather in 1994, say water specialists. The lack of rain led to increased irrigation, which probably caused most of the drop. Dry weather also meant that less precipitation was available to move back into, or "recharge," water tables. The decline in 1994 was particularly noticeable after a much wetter year in 1993, when less irrigation was required.

Water levels declined in about 80 percent of the 1500 wells measured in January, 1995, by the Kansas Geological Survey, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Division of Water Resources of the State Board of Agriculture.

Most of the wells measured for the annual report are in the western third of Kansas and take water from the High Plains aquifer, an underground water source that includes the Ogallala Formation.

"These wells provide a snapshot of water levels across much of the state," said Robert Buddemeier, one of the report's authors. "Because 1994 was a fairly dry year, water levels were generally down, and each of the regions reflect that pattern."

Declines were most apparent in southwestern Kansas, where water levels were down an average of just over two feet per well, the largest drop in the past five years. Declines were especially severe in west-central Ford County, where many wells dropped more than 10 feet. Declines of between five and 10 feet were commonly measured in Haskell, Seward, Stevens, and Grant counties.

In Kansas, the Ogallala aquifer is thickest in the southwestern corner of the state, in some places storing several hundred feet of groundwater. While water levels have declined sharply in southwestern Kansas, considerable water remains in much of the High Plains aquifer.

Declines in west-central Kansas averaged about a foot. Decreases of one to five feet were common in Wallace, Greeley, Wichita, and Scott counties.

Wells in northwestern Kansas showed a drop of six inches when measured in January 1995, compared to a rise of more than a foot when measured in January 1994. Declines of one to five feet were common in Sherman, Thomas, Sheridan, Cheyenne, and Decatur counties.

Water levels were also down in south-central Kansas. The average well dropped about two-and-a-half feet, compared to an increase of about 2.5 feet the previous year. Declines of six to 10 feet were especially notable in western Harvey County, extreme eastern and western Reno County, and in extreme southern and extreme northern Stafford County.

"The decline in south-central Kansas is probably a combination of natural discharge from aquifers to rivers and streams after a year of unusually high recharge in 1993," said Buddemeier. "The 1994 decline was also caused by the effects of pumping and a lessening of recharge in 1994 when compared to the previous year."

Copies of the report, "January 1995 Kansas Water Levels and Data Related to Water-Level Changes," by John Woods, Jeff Schloss, and Robert Buddemeier, are available from the Kansas Geological Survey, West Campus, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 66047. The cost is $10, plus $3.00 handling and postage. Kansas residents should add 6.9% sales tax.

For more information, contact Rex Buchanan, (785) 864-3965

Kansas Geological Survey, Publications and Public Affairs