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Kansas Geological Survey, Open-file Report 2017-10
Part of the Ogallala-High Plains Aquifer Project

High Plains Aquifer Index Well Program: 2016 Annual Report

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

KGS Open File Report 2017-10
April 2017

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 that continuously monitors water levels and 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 nine full recovery and pumping seasons and one continuing 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 the spring of 2016, three new index wells were drilled in GMD1; telemetry equipment was installed in those wells, a well in the SD-6 LEMA, and a well on the Willis Technology Farm in southern Finney County later in the year. In the late fall of 2016, a new index well was drilled southwest of Goodland in GMD4; telemetry equipment will be installed in that well in spring 2017.

This report provides a description of conditions as of late winter 2017. The report consists of (a) an update of the hydrographs for all of the index wells and for the 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 all of the index wells; (c) a discussion of the installation of the new index well in GMD4; (d) an update and interpretation of the hydrographs of the expansion wells in the vicinity of the Haskell index well; and (e) a discussion of climatic indices and radar precipitation data and their relationship to annual water-level changes at six of the wells and to water use in the vicinity of those wells.

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

  1. Water-level data collected using a pressure transducer and datalogger 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. The annual water-level measurement network data, in conjunction with reliable water-use data, can be used to evaluate the impact of management decisions on the subunit and larger scale using a new approach developed as part of this program.
  6. Radar precipitation data can be used to predict annual water-level changes and water use in the vicinity of the index wells.

The focus of project activities in 2017 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 new index well in GMD4 and one additional well northwest of Garden City in GMD3; further assessment of the relationships among climatic indices, radar precipitation data, annual water-level change, and water use; 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 (61 MB)

Kansas Geological Survey, Geohydrology
Placed online May 17, 2017
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