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News Release, Kansas Geological Survey, Oct. 8, 1999

Water Levels Generally Lower In Kansas

LAWRENCE--Groundwater levels were generally lower in Kansas in 1998 as compared with 1997. Though they rose slightly in some parts of the state, groundwater levels generally fell in parts of western and central Kansas.

That's the verdict of 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 1,400 wells in 49 counties in central and western Kansas. The wells, most of which are used for irrigation, were measured in January 1999 by the Kansas Geological Survey and the Division of Water Resources of the Kansas Department of Agriculture.

Most of these wells are measured annually by the agencies. The results show regional trends in groundwater levels. The wells are measured in January, so that water levels can stabilize from the previous season's pumping.

The downward trend in this year's measurements is consistent with the long-term pattern of decline in the High Plains aquifer, said Survey water specialist Bob Buddemeier. The High Plains aquifer, which includes the Ogallala Formation, is the primary water source in western Kansas. "In the long run, we can safely say that water levels are dropping because of overpumping," Buddemeier said. "Since the 1960's at least, we've been pumping more water out than has been entering the aquifer as recharge."

The report shows that water levels in southwestern Kansas dropped an average of 1.1 feet from January 1998 to 1999. This is substantially more than the previous year's decline of 0.1. When compared to water levels in the 1940's--the so-called pre-development period prior to the large-scale use of groundwater for irrigation--average water levels in this region have dropped more than 52 feet. Because the High Plains aquifer is relatively thick in southwestern Kansas, however, substantial amounts of water remain.

In west-central Kansas, water levels fell an average of 0.6 feet. This contrasts with slight water level increases of the previous two years. On average, water levels in wells in this region have dropped 35.4 feet since pre-development.

Water levels in northwestern Kansas declined 0.1 feet from 1998 to 1999. This decline was less than the previous year's drop of 0.3 feet. Since pre-development, water levels have dropped an average of 14.4 feet.

In south-central Kansas, water levels rose an average of 0.2 feet from January 1998 to 1999. Though declines were more widespread in the westernmost part of this region, they were offset by rising water levels in other parts. Most of the groundwater in this area comes from relatively shallow sources, which are more affected by annual precipitation patterns than the deeper High Plains aquifer. Water levels have declined an average of 1.7 feet since predevelopment.

For each of the nearly 1,400 wells measured in this program, the report lists the depth to water, the change in water levels from 1998 to 1999, the change from initial measurements of the well to 1999, the rock formation that produces the water, and other information.

The report, January 1999 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 Liz Brosius, (785) 864-3965
For more information, contact Bob Buddemeier (785-864-3965)

Kansas Geological Survey, Publications and Public Affairs