Kansas Geological Survey to measure groundwater levels in western Kansas
LAWRENCE – A team from the Kansas Geological Survey, based at the University of Kansas, will be in western Kansas to measure groundwater levels the first week of January.
The levels are measured annually as part of a joint project led by the KGS and the Water Resources Division of the Kansas Department of Agriculture (DWR) to monitor the health of the state’s precious groundwater resources. .
If time permits, the KGS team will work in the following areas:
- January 4: Near Colby and Atwood
- January 5: Goodland and Saint Francis
- January 6: Tribune, Syracuse and Ulysses
- January 7: Elkhart and Liberal
- January 8: Meade and Dodge City.
Most of the wells measured tap into the High Plains Aquifer, a massive network of underground rock aquifers and the main source of water in the region. The remainder taps into deeper aquifers or shallower alluvial aquifers along streams and rivers.
Underlying portions of eight states, the High Plains Aquifer in Kansas includes three distinct aquifers: the Ogallala Aquifer, the Equus Beds around Wichita and Hutchinson, and the Great Bend Prairie Aquifer around Pratt. and Great Bend. The largest by far, the Ogallala spans all eight states.
“The Ogallala portion of the Kansas High Plains Aquifer, essentially the western third of the state, has experienced some level of drought dating back to last spring,” said Brownie Wilson, KGS water data manager. . “This is especially true for the counties bordering Colorado.”
The accumulation or lack of precipitation during the growing season affects the amount of pumping, which is the main factor in raising and lowering groundwater level. In 2020, extreme drought conditions in late spring and early summer, mainly in southwestern Kansas, have eased somewhat only to reappear recently, particularly in northwestern Kansas.
“With such a dry growing season, pumping demands will likely have been higher, and I expect we will see a decline in groundwater statewide,” Wilson said.
Groundwater levels in much of the Ogallala Aquifer state part, particularly in southwestern Kansas, have been declining since water use began to increase in the middle of the 20e century.
As average annual precipitation rates gradually decline in the state from east to west, the Equus Beds and Great Bend Prairie aquifers receive about 35 and 25 inches per year, respectively, compared to 15 inches along the Colorado border. Also shallower than the Ogallala aquifer, Kansas’ two central aquifers are more influenced by recharge – water seeping from the surface – making them less susceptible to permanent loss.
The KGS and DWR measure groundwater levels in December, January and February to avoid, as much as possible, short-term declines caused by widespread pumping during the growing season. Of the 1,428 wells monitored in 48 counties, KGS will measure 587, and teams in DWR field offices in Garden City, Stafford and Stockton will measure 841.
Many wells, accessible with permission from landowners, have been monitored for years, although new wells are added as older wells become inaccessible or to fill spatial gaps in the monitoring network. The majority are within the boundaries of the state’s five groundwater management districts (GMDs), which are organized and governed by landowners and water users in the region to address local water resource issues. .
Historical annual measurements for each well are available on the KGS website (http://www.kgs.ku.edu/Magellan/WaterLevels/index.html). The results of the measurements taken in January 2021 will be added at the end of February.