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Water declining in western Kansas

Author: Kristy

Abundance of irrigation wells threatens once-abundant reserve

An irrigation system waters soybean plants in a field near Larned, as seen in this file photo from 2011. (Irrigation in western Kansas Sandra J. Milburn

 

By Amy Bickel The Hutchinson News

The average groundwater levels in central Kansas rose for the first time in three years while levels in western Kansas continued to decline, according to an annual water well measurement study conducted by the Kansas Geological Survey.

The survey recently completed the measurement of 1,400 wells across western and central Kansas, said Brownie Wilson, the agency’s water-data manager. The data was released Tuesday.

In the Equus Beds – the supplier of water for Wichita, Hutchinson and other towns – saw an average rise in the water level by 2.57 feet, according to the preliminary data. Southwest Kansas’ Ogallala Aquifer, which tabulates declines every year, again saw declines, although 2013 was better than the three previous years. The aquifer dropped 2.30 feet, compared to a combined 11 feet from 2010-2012.

The past two or three years saw heavy declines to the state’s aquifers as irrigators prolonged pumping to compensate for the lack rain from the sky. However, snow in early 2013, followed by rains in the spring, did help some areas of the state. Much of south-central Kansas’ gains, however, Wilson credited to the above average rainfall in July and August.

He also noted it probably helped alleviate larger drops in western Kansas, although much of this area missed out on the heavy moisture.

Water levels in northwest Kansas’ Groundwater Management District No. 4 declined an average 0.76 feet during 2013, compared to 1.39 feet in 2012. In west-central Kansas GMD No. 1, water levels fell .79 feet compared to 1.54 feet the year before.  READ MORE

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