Thursday, March 01, 2018

High Plains Aquifer depletion slows in Kansas, thanks to rain and better water-management practices

Water-level changes in High Plains Aquifer 2013-18 (Kansas Geological Survey map; click on image for larger version)
The High Plains aquifer is still losing water overall, but a new study shows that the depletion is slowing down in Kansas, thanks to good rains and better practices among farmers.

Every January the Kansas Geological Survey and the Kansas Department of Agriculture's Division of Water Resources measure water levels in 1,400 wells in western and central Kansas. Those wells draw water from the Ogallala, Equus Beds and Great Bend Prairie aquifers. This January's survey showed that groundwater levels rose slightly or stayed about stable in 2017, Amy Bickel reports for the High Plains Journal.

The Ogallala, which covers eight states, is still nearly depleted in some places, though. "Groundwater levels in southwest Kansas, where the Ogallala is the richest, have fallen an average 40 feet since 1996 when the KGS took over monitoring the wells. Some areas have had more significant declines," Bickel reports.

Some farmers have responded to the threat by using soil sensors and other technologies to irrigate their crops more efficiently. Kansas farmer Tim Franklin told Bickel that soil moisture probes have benefited his farm. He's had two good harvests and the water level in his family well, which had declined for several years, rose 1.29 feet. "What we are doing might not work for everyone," he said. But "if we can all do a little bit, it adds up."

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