Get the facts about the Ogallala Aquifer

Jul 31, 2014


This is the last installment of the water series.  Amy Bickel covered facts about the Ogallala Aquifer in a story published by Kansas Agland.

Here’s a summary:

The Ogallala Aquifer

  • Is one of the largest freshwater aquifers in the world 
  • Spans across parts of nine states: Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming
  • Covers almost 174,000 miles
  • Is part of the High Plains Aquifer
  • Is composed mainly of silt, sand, gravel, and clay that washed off the face of the Rocky Mountains and other sources over the last several million years
  • Is one of the primary sources of water for agriculture
  • Is one of the fastest depleting aquifers
  • Was thought to be inexhaustible by irrigation pioneers
  • Has shrunk by 9 percent
  • Has typical declines of 50-150 feet in southwest and west-central Kansas
  • Has varying rates of recharge and drawdown, depending on location because of aquifer depth and natural thickness
  • Has declined by 50-100 feet in the past ten years in several southwest Kansas wells.

Kansas Water Law

  • Water is a public resource dedicated to the use of the people of the state.
  • According to the law, when there is insufficient water to meet all water rights, the date of the water right determines who has the right to use the water.
  • This doctrine is commonly expressed as "First in time, first in right."


Explore Kansas' water use on two interactive maps created by The Hutchinson News. See the change in depth to water over the last 10 years in more than 2,000 wells monitored by the Kansas Geological Survey and other agencies. The tabs at the top of the map to switch to another map showing more than 43,000 water rights and points of diversion. Filters on the right of either map to apply filters such as county, aquifer, river basin, crop and more.

Credit Jim Heck / The Hutchinson News