Goundwater levels across central and western Kansas dropped an average of about 6 inches last year, according to preliminary numbers compiled by the Kansas Geological Survey, based at the University of Kansas.
These results are based on about 1,300 water wells that were measured in January by the Survey and the Division of Water Resources of the Kansas Department of Agriculture.
The wells dropped an average of 0.57 feet from January 2005 to January 2006. The average decline the previous year, from 2004 to 2005, was 0.17 feet.
Most of the wells that were measured are used for irrigation. Many pump water from the Ogallala aquifer, a part of the High Plains aquifer.
The biggest decline in water levels occurred in southwestern Kansas, where wells dropped an average of 1.15 feet from 2005 to 2006. That compares with a slight rise in water levels in the area in the previous year.
Water levels dropped about 0.6 feet in northwestern Kansas, about the same as the previous year. And they declined about a third of a foot in west-central Kansas.
Water levels were about the same in the Equus Beds area north of Wichita and declined about 0.1 feet in the Big Bend area of central Kansas.
Places that saw particularly notable declines include the area between Meade and Garden City and the area between Hugoton and Liberal, where water levels declined an average of 5 feet or more.
However, water levels rose slightly in parts of Morton and Stanton counties with increases of more than 2.5 feet observed in western Grant County.
“Declines from 2005 to 2006 were greater than the previous year,” said Brownie Wilson, water-data manager at the Survey. “That may reflect a difference in weather patterns.
“While water levels declined more this year than last year, the declines are still not as steep as they were from 2000 to 2004, when western Kansas was particularly dry.”