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Kansas Geological Survey, Open-file Report 2013-1
Part of the Ogallala-High Plains Aquifer Project

High Plains Aquifer Index Well Program: 2012 Annual Report

J.J. Butler, Jr., D.O. Whittemore, G.C. Bohling, E. Reboulet, R.L. Stotler, and B.B. Wilson

KGS Open File Report 2013-1
March 2013

Executive Summary

The index well program (formerly, calibration monitoring well program) is directed at developing improved approaches for measuring and interpreting hydrologic responses at the local (section to township) scale in the High Plains aquifer (HPA) in western Kansas. The study is supported by the Kansas Water Office (KWO) with Water Plan funding as a result of KWO's interest in and responsibility for long-term planning of groundwater resources in western Kansas. The Kansas Department of Agriculture, Division of Water Resources (DWR), is providing assistance, as are Groundwater Management Districts (GMDs) 1, 3, and 4.

The project began with the installation of three transducer-equipped wells, designed and sited to function as local monitoring wells, in late summer 2007. One of these index wells is installed in each of the three western GMDs, with locations deliberately chosen to represent different water use and hydrogeologic conditions, and to take advantage of related past or current studies. A major focus of the program has been the development of criteria or methods to evaluate the effectiveness of management strategies at the sub- unit (e.g., township) scale. Changes in water level--or the rate at which the water level is changing--are considered the most direct and unequivocal measures of the impact of management strategies. At the time of this report, monitoring data (hourly frequency) from five full recovery and pumping seasons and one ongoing recovery season have been obtained at the three index wells; additional water-level data have been acquired from wells in the vicinity of all three index well sites. In late 2012, four wells along the Kansas-Oklahoma state line were added to the network.

This report provides (a) an update of the hydrographs for the original three index wells; (b) interpretation of hydrographs from the index wells and the wells in the expanded monitoring area in the vicinity of the Thomas index well; (c) a discussion of the new wells added to the network in GMD1 and along the Kansas-Oklahoma border in GMD3 and interpretation of the initial hydrographs from these wells; (d) a discussion of climatic indices and their relationship to annual water-level changes at the original three index wells; and (e) a discussion of a spreadsheet approach for estimating the impact of barometric pressure changes in western Kansas during the time of each annual measurement campaign and its potential effects on annual water-level change estimates.

The major findings of the project are as follows:

  1. The annual water-level measurement network alone (even with additional
  2. semi-annual observations) does not currently produce an adequate dataset to evaluate how management decisions affect water-level changes in the short term (fewer than four to five years);
  3. Because of uncertainties in both the effects of barometric pressure changes and the degree of well recovery at the time of the annual water-level measurement program, the data from the index wells provide the context needed for interpretation of the results of the annual measurement program;
  4. Interpretation of index well hydrographs during both the pumping and recovery periods enables important practical insights to be drawn concerning the origin of the pumped water and the long-term viability of the aquifer in the vicinity of the index wells;
  5. Additional measurements at nearby [local (~township) scale] wells help establish the generality of the conclusions that can be obtained from interpretation of index well hydrographs;
  6. Local hydrogeologic variations and well construction need to be assessed and considered in the interpretation of well hydrographs for the most effective use of wells of opportunity;
  7. Continuous monitoring has helped establish the hydrogeologic information conveyed by hydrographs of various forms; and
  8. Water-level data collected using a pressure transducer and data logger provide a near-continuous record of great practical value that can help in the assessment of the continued viability of the HPA as a source of water for large-scale irrigation.

The focus of project activities in 2013 will be on the continuation of the detailed analyses of hydrographs from all project wells, completion of the computer tool for readily identifying susceptibility of water-level change estimates from the annual water-level measurement program to barometric pressure effects, cooperation with GMD4 on the interpretation of water-level data from monitoring wells in the Sheridan-6 subunit, further interpretation of geochemical results of analyses of water samples from the vicinity of the index wells, an assessment of the contribution of the Dakota aquifer to pumping withdrawals in the vicinity of the Haskell County index well, further assessment of the relationship between climatic indices and annual water-level changes in the three western GMDs, and integration of information from drillers' logs in the vicinity of the Thomas County index well into interpretation of water-level responses in that area.

The complete text of this report is available as an Adobe Acrobat PDF file.

Read the PDF version (30 MB)

Kansas Geological Survey, Geohydrology
Placed online April 10, 2013
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