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News Release, Kansas Geological Survey, Nov. 25, 1998

Water Levels Decline in Some Areas, Up in Others

LAWRENCE--Groundwater levels dropped slightly in some parts of western and central Kansas in 1997, but rose slightly in other areas. Where water levels dropped, the rate of decline was less than in previous years.

That's according to the most recent report on groundwater levels, published by the Kansas Geological Survey, based at the University of Kansas.

The publication reports the results of measuring about 1,350 water wells in 47 counties in central and western Kansas. The wells, most of which are used for irrigation, were measured in January 1998 by the Kansas Geological Survey and the Division of Water Resources of the Kansas Department of Agriculture.

Nearly all of these wells are measured by the agencies each year. The results provide a snapshot of regional trends in groundwater levels. The measurements are made in January, after the irrigation season, so that water levels can stabilize from the previous season's pumping.

"Because many of these wells are used for irrigation, measurements are made in mid-winter so wells can recover from seasonal pumping," said Survey water specialist Allen Macfarlane, one of the authors of the report.

The report shows that water levels in southwestern Kansas declined by an average of about 0.1 feet from January 1997 to 1998. That is less than the previous year's decline of 0.3 feet. The High Plains aquifer, which includes the Ogallala Formation, is the most commonly used water source in this region. In the time since water levels were widely measured in the 1940s—a time generally referred to as "pre-development" because it is prior to large-scale irrigation--declines here have averaged more than 51 feet. Because the High Plains aquifer is relatively thick in southwestern Kansas, however, substantial amounts of water remain.

Water levels were up by an average of about 0.5 feet in wells measured in west-central Kansas. Water levels increased because precipitation lessened the need for pumping in 1997 and allowed water-levels to recover. Since pre-development times, however, wells in this area have dropped an average of 36.7 feet.

In northwestern Kansas, water levels declined by 0.3 feet from 1997 to 1998. That decrease was the largest of any region of the state, and was probably due to pumping that continued at rates greater than recharge—the movement of water from the ground's surface back into the aquifers. Since pre-development, water levels in this area have dropped an average of 14.8 feet.

Water levels in south-central Kansas rose an average of nearly one foot from 1997 to 1998. Most water sources in this area are relatively shallow and recharge is more significant. Water levels have declined slightly less than two feet since measurements began in this area.

For each of the wells measured in this program, the report lists the depth to water, the change in water levels from 1997 to 1998, the change from initial measurements of the well to 1998, the rock formation that produces the water, and other information.

The report, January 1998 Kansas Water Levels and Data Related to Water-level Changes, is by Survey water specialists John Woods, Jeffrey Schloss, and P.Allen Macfarlane. Copies are available from the Kansas Geological Survey, 1930 Constant Ave., Lawrence, KS 66047 (or phone 785-864-3965). Copies cost $10, plus $3 for shipping and handling. Kansas residents should add 6.9% sales tax.

For more information on the water levels in Kansas, see WIZARD--The KGS Water Information Storage and Retrieval Database web site.
A short extract from this publication is available.

Story by Rex Buchanan, (785) 864-3965
For more information, contact Allen Macfarlane (785-864-3965)

Kansas Geological Survey, Publications and Public Affairs