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Kansas Geological Survey, Open-file Report 2014-1
Part of the Ogallala-High Plains Aquifer Project

High Plains Aquifer Index Well Program: 2013 Annual Report

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

KGS Open File Report 2014-1
May 2014

Executive Summary

The index 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), provides assistance, as do Groundwater Management Districts (GMDs) 1, 3, and 4, and the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

The project began with the installation of three monitoring ("index") wells in late summer 2007. Each well has a transducer for continuous monitoring of water levels that is connected to telemetry equipment that allows real-time monitoring of well conditions on a publicly accessible website. An index well was 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 local (subunit) 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 six full recovery and pumping seasons and one ongoing recovery season have been obtained at the original three index wells; additional water-level data have been acquired from wells in the vicinity of all three index wells. In late 2012, wells in four monitoring nests (one well from each nest) along the Kansas-Oklahoma state line were added to the network; additional wells were added from two of these nests (one well per nest) in August 2013 and, in cooperation with the USGS, telemetry equipment was installed in four of these wells in late 2013.

This report provides (a) an update of the hydrographs for the original three index wells, the new index wells (wells along the Kansas-Oklahoma border in GMD3), and the expanded network (one well in GMD1 and three wells in the vicinity of the Thomas index well); (b) interpretation of the hydrographs from the original three index wells and discussion of the information conveyed by hydrographs of different forms; (c) a discussion of climatic indices and their relationship to annual water-level changes at the original three index wells and to water use in the vicinity of those wells; and (d) discussion of the results of chemical analyses of groundwater samples obtained from the original index wells and irrigation wells in their vicinity.

The major findings of the index well program are as follows:

  1. The annual water-level measurement network alone (even with additional semi-annual observations) does not, in general, produce an adequate dataset to evaluate how management decisions affect water-level changes in the short term (fewer than four to five years);
  2. 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;
  3. Interpretation of index well hydrographs during both 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;
  4. Additional measurements at nearby (local-scale) wells help establish the generality of the conclusions that can be obtained from interpretation of index well hydrographs;
  5. 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;
  6. Continuous monitoring has helped establish the hydrogeologic information conveyed by hydrographs of various forms; and
  7. 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 2014 will be on the continuation of monitoring at all project wells, continuation of the detailed analyses of hydrographs from all project wells, cooperation with GMD4 on the interpretation of water-level data from monitoring wells in the Sheridan-6 subunit, continued assessment of the subsurface information that can be acquired from an analysis of the water-level response to changes in barometric pressure, further interpretation of geochemical results of analyses of water samples from the vicinity of the index wells, an assessment of the effect of the Dakota aquifer on water levels in the vicinity of the Haskell County index well, further assessment of the relationship between climatic indices and annual water-level changes and water use in the three western GMDs, and integration of information from drillers' logs in the vicinity of the Thomas and Scott index wells into interpretation of water-level responses in those areas.

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

Read the PDF version (34 MB)

Kansas Geological Survey, Geohydrology
Placed online June 2, 2014
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