Ogallala Aquifer

Joe Dyer, flickr Creative Commons

There's a meeting planned this week in Kansas to discuss concerns about using water pumped from the Ogallala Aquifer in northeast Colorado to help satisfy streamflow requirements on the Republican River.

The gathering Tuesday in St. Francis will include Governor Sam Brownback along with agriculture and water officials.

Representative Rick Billinger of Goodland wants to gather input on the pumping project and "possible ways to preserve the Ogallala for future users."

The Kansas Geological Survey says average groundwater levels are still declining in western Kansas, but at a slower rate.

The agency released preliminary data yesterday from the measurements of some 1,400 water wells taken earlier this year.

Most of the wells draw from the High Plains aquifer, which includes the Equus Beds and Great Bend Prairie aquifer in south-central Kansas and the Ogallala aquifer in western Kansas.

Water levels declined an average of 0.87 feet in 2014, a slower rate than the drop in 2013.

KS Water Office Presentation

A lot has changed in the three decades since the idea of building an aqueduct from the Missouri River to western Kansas was first studied and shelved. For one thing, the water shortages that were mere projections then are now imminent.

That reality, as Bryan Thompson reports, has prompted state officials to dust off the study and re-examine the aqueduct idea.

The depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer is causing western Kansas to lose many of its perennial streams.

Jim Butler is the geohydrology section chief with the Kansas Geological Survey.

Butler said at a workshop in Lawrence last week that many streams in western Kansas used to be fed by the aquifer because its water table was higher than the streams.

He says because the aquifer's water table has dropped 3 feet or more below the stream beds, most of the streams are now dry year round.

Little use is being made of a law that allows farmers to form groups that can require deep reductions in irrigation.

The hope was that if enough western Kansas farmers pared their water use, the Ogallalah aquifer's lifespan could be extended. Two years later though, only one group of 110 farmers, who own 99 square miles in Sheridan and Thomas counties near Colby, has formed.

A proposal to curtail irrigation pumping from the Ogallala Aquifer has been rejected by voters in a western Kansas groundwater management district.

The proposed creation of a Local Enhanced Management Area was defeated 173-158 in a recent vote by water rights holders and property owners in the five-county district.

A 2012 Kansas law provides for creation of such management areas specifically to extend the life of the aquifer. The board of Groundwater Management District No. 1 asked voters to approve a six-year plan to reduce pumping for irrigation by 20 percent.

Kansas water officials want to discover how feasible it would be to build a 360-mile aqueduct. The aqueduct would tap the Missouri River to support agriculture in western parts of the state.

Tracy Streeter with the Kansas Water Office told legislators Tuesday the study would begin next year and take about 18 months to complete.

Officials want to divert as much as 4 million acre-feet of water and sending it west, to help support irrigated farming of corn and other crops.

Study: High Plains Aquifer Mostly Gone in 50 Years

Aug 27, 2013

A new study forecasts that 69 percent of the water in the High Plains Aquifer in Kansas will be depleted within 50 years at current usage rates.

The paper by researchers at Kansas State University was published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. It focuses on the Ogallala aquifer in western Kansas.

The study estimates that 30 percent of the aquifer was depleted by 2010 and an additional 39 percent is expected to disappear by 2060.

Wichita and Sedgwick County election results are in; Anti-abortion legislation passes in Senate; Drug testing bill ready for Gov's signature; Ogallala Aquifer group to meet; Prison art on display at Statehouse.

Close Races For Wichita City Council, School Board

Wichita and Sedgwick county elections were held Tuesday. Wichita saw close races in for both City Council and School Board.

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Gov. Brownback Plans Conference On Future Of Water

Oct 29, 2012
USDAgov / Flickr

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is sponsoring a two-day event this week that his office is calling the state's first conference on the future of water.The event is scheduled to begin tomorrow in Manhattan and will include a speech from Brownback. Also on the agenda are U.S. Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas and Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick, commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.