KGS Home Geohydrology Home Reports

Kansas Geological Survey, Open-file Report 2016-4
Part of the Ogallala-High Plains Aquifer Project

High Plains Aquifer Index Well Program: 2015 Annual Report

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

KGS Open File Report 2016-4
June 2016

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 and south-central 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 and south-central Kansas. The Kansas Department of Agriculture, Division of Water Resources (DWR), provides assistance, as do Groundwater Management Districts (GMDs) 1, 3, 4, and 5, the Kansas State University Northwest Research-Extension Center (KSU-NWREC), 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 to allow 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 ongoing 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 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 eight full recovery and pumping seasons and one ongoing or completed, depending on location, recovery season have been obtained at the original three index wells. In late 2012, wells in four monitoring nests (one well from each nest) along the Kansas-Oklahoma state line in GMD3 were added to the network (border wells); 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. In 2014, equipment for real-time monitoring of water levels was installed in an observation well at the KSU-NWREC facility in Colby and in a well just north of Belpre in GMD5. In addition, the Sheridan-6 Local Enhanced Management Area (SD-6 LEMA) monitoring wells were incorporated into the network. In early spring of 2016, three new index wells were drilled in GMD1; telemetry equipment will be installed in these wells in June 2016.

This report provides a description of conditions as of late winter to early spring of 2016. The report consists of (a) an update of the hydrographs for the original three index wells, the new index wells (border wells, the Colby well, the Belpre well, and the five SD-6 LEMA wells), and additional wells (expansion wells) in the vicinity of the Scott and Thomas index wells (one well near the Scott index well and three wells in the vicinity of the Thomas index well); (b) an interpretation of the hydrographs from the original three index wells, the border wells, and the newer index wells; (c) a discussion of the installation of the three new index wells in GMD1; (d) a discussion of climatic indices and radar precipitation data and their relationship to annual water-level changes at the original three index wells and to water use in the vicinity of those wells; (e) a discussion of further development of the theoretical support for the linear annual water use versus annual water-level change relationship; and (f) a discussion of the results of chemical analyses of groundwater samples obtained from the SD-6 LEMA wells.

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Continuous monitoring has helped establish the hydrogeologic information conveyed by hydrographs of various forms.
  4. 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.
  5. Under certain conditions, the annual water-level measurement network data, in conjunction with reliable water-use data, can be used to predict the near-term (fewer than 10 to 15 years) impact of management decisions using a new approach developed as part of this program.
  6. Additional measurements at nearby wells help establish the generality of the conclusions that can be obtained from interpretation of index well hydrographs.
  7. 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.

The focus of project activities in 2016 will be on the continuation of monitoring at all project wells; continuation of the detailed analyses of hydrographs from all project wells; installation of telemetry equipment at the three new index wells in GMD1; drilling of additional index wells at sites to be determined; further assessment of the relationships among climatic indices, radar precipitation data, annual water-level change, and water use; further exploration of the linear water use versus annual water-level change relationship; further interpretation of geochemical results of analyses of water samples from the vicinity of the index wells; continued assessment of the subsurface information that can be acquired from an analysis of the water-level response to changes in barometric pressure; 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 (16 MB)

Kansas Geological Survey, Geohydrology
Placed online June 7, 2016
Comments to
The URL for this page is