Kansas Geological Survey
Fall 2000
Vol. 6.3

High Plains Aquifer Atlas


These maps project how many years it will take to deplete certain regions of the High Plains aquifer




High Plains Aquifer–page 1

From the Director–page 2

New Publications–page 3

Earth Science Week–page 3

A Place To Visit–page 4

Water is an issue across all of Kansas, but nowhere is it more important than the western end of the state where precipitation is low and surface water is rare. Fortunately, a vast source of underground water—the High Plains aquifer—occurs under much of central and western Kansas.

The High Plains aquifer is a large, water-saturated body of sand, gravel, silt, and clay that underlies parts of eight states, including portions of western and central Kansas. The High Plains aquifer is generally identical to the Ogallala Formation (and is sometimes called the Ogallala aquifer), but in some areas it includes other formations that are hydrologically connected to the Ogallala.

Several decades of intensive irrigation have significantly depleted the High Plains aquifer in many areas. To better understand the aquifer and issues related to it, the Kansas Geological Survey, under a contract with the Kansas Water Office, is publishing a non-technical comprehensive atlas on the Kansas portion of the High Plains aquifer. An Atlas of the Kansas High Plains Aquifer targets water users, government agencies, water managers, legislators, and others involved in developing policy and making decisions about water in Kansas. This atlas focuses on ground water and related water-resource issues in the High Plains aquifer in western and central Kansas. A web-based version of the Atlas is online at www.kgs.ku.edu/HighPlains/atlas.

“The printed Atlas is a snapshot of the web-based version, which will continue to be updated,” said Bob Buddemeier, the Survey’s project manager for the High Plains Aquifer Evaluation Project. “The web version will keep maps and discussion current as data are added.”

Of particular interest is the section that estimates the usable life of the aquifer for high-volume pumping. These maps project how many years it will take to deplete certain regions of the High Plains aquifer, based on historical usage, and show many areas with less than 25 years of high-volume use left. In some areas the aquifer has already been exhausted for irrigation purposes.

Buddemeier warns that these maps need to be understood and used with caution. “These maps do not predict aquifer depletion. Rather they show the probability of problems developing in certain areas of the aquifer—what might happen if past rates and patterns of use continue. We’re trying to get people to think differently about the aquifer—to look at trends, not specifics.”

To emphasize this point, the Atlas contains estimated usable lifetime maps based on water use during two different periods: 1978–1988 and 1988–1998. Because of changes in weather trends and irrigation methods, depletion patterns changed from one time period to the next, and will continue to change. “What we can’t predict is what nature and people will do in the future,” says Buddemeier.

The Atlas contains 23 maps, including maps depicting the water-saturated thickness of the aquifer, ground-water-quality, and annual ground-water recharge. The Atlas also includes information and maps on water storage, availability, accessibility, usage, changes necessary for sustainability, and how the aquifer interacts with surface water. Supplementary information explains ground-water terminology and concepts, and a glossary of hydrologic, geologic, and environmental terms also is provided.

The printed version of the Atlas (Educational Series 14) will be available in the fall of 2000 from KGS Publications Sales (pubsales@kgs.ku.edu) for $15.00, plus tax, shipping and handling.

Estimated usable lifetime (1988-98 trend) for the High plains aquifer in Kansas.
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Online February 10, 2003

Comments to: lbrosius@kgs.ku.edu

Kansas Geological Survey