GARDEN CITY, Kansas – Drought and an increased reliance on crop irrigation has taken its toll on the High Plains Aquifer, which includes the Ogallala Aquifer. It’s been diminishing for years.
“We want to conserve as much as we can, and try to slow those trends down, then extend that water for the future,” said Mike Meyer, Southwest Kansas Water Commissioner for the Department of Agriculture’s Division of Water Resources.
The Kansas Geological Survey, with help from the Department of Agriculture, collects measurements each year to keep tabs on the precious resource.
“We try to measure the same wells year after year to give us an idea of what the water table is doing,” explained Water Data Manager for KGS Brownie Wilson.
“The better understanding we have, the better we can make decisions for the future,” Meyer said.
They measure over 1400 wells in Southern and Western Kansas, some of which are used to pump water on a regular basis, while others are observation wells, which means they’re there for researchers to check the groundwater levels in the area.
Thanks to timely rains last summer, which led to less crop irrigation, the outcome looks positive.
“So far from what we’ve seen, there’s still declines that have occurred, but they’re not as bad they were, especially in the last couple of years,” Wilson said.
Unfortunately, continuing agricultural and domestic demands are expected to contribute to a yearly decline.
“It’s all kind of relative,” Wilson said. “Maybe you saw bigger declines in those same areas, but they weren’t as bad as they were in years past.”
Wilson said they won’t have official numbers until all the wells have been measured, but was optimistic, saying some wells stayed close to the same level, while others, like some in Hugoton, dropped three or four feet or more.
The final results of the Groundwater Survey are expected to come out in February.