Ogallala Aquifer

Kansas Geological Survey

Thanks to timely rains last year, Mount Hope-area farmer Jeff Winter figures on some of his fields he pumped half the amount of water that he normally uses to irrigate his crops.

So did many central Kansas farmers. And it showed. 

While the Ogallala Aquifer continues to decline, the Equus Beds and Great Bend Prairie aquifers saw rises as irrigators shut down their wells more often in 2016.

"We didn't have to pump as much, and we shut off more frequently," said Winter, who also is on the Equus Beds board. He added that on a few fields, he pumped even less.

Travis Morrise / The Hutchinson News

With Kansas' Ogallala Aquifer continuing to decline, a Haskell County farm family tested the age-old water law adage "First in time, first in right," and won.

Haskell County District Court Judge Linda Gilmore ruled Wednesday in favor of the Garetsons and their more-than-80-year-old vested senior water right in the county, granting a permanent injunction against American Warrior - shutting off the company's two junior water wells that are impairing the Garetsons' right.

An irrigation system waters soybean plants in a field near Larned, as seen in this file photo from 2011.Credit Sandra J. Milburn / The Hutchinson NewsEdit | Remove

TOPEKA – Garden City Mayor Chris Law wasn’t in Topeka Tuesday, but he would have liked what was said.

Amy Bickel / The Hutchinson News

MEADE – Off a dirt road on an abandoned farmstead in Meade County, Rex Buchanan searched for a metal pipe hidden in tall weeds.

Back a few decades ago, the search would have taken much longer – almost like finding a needle in a haystack. But GPS pinpointed the location and sure enough – in the middle of the thickest clump – a tube is sticking out of the earth.

Water and Replenishment

Jan 26, 2017
Karen Madorin - Logan, Kansas

Welcome to High Plains Public Radio Readers Book Club, an on-air, on-line community of readers exploring themes of common interest to those who live and work on the High Plains.  In this, our third Book club series, Water and Replenishment is our theme.   In our region, defined by low precipitation, few running rivers, and aquifers with slow rates of replenishment, water is in great demand.  Can we insure we have enough water -- for cooking and cleaning, for livestock and crops, for feedlots and plants, for reservoirs and swimming pools? for everyone?

cstoddard / Flickr Creative Commons

Aquifers around the world, including the High Plains, provide water for crops, but as National Geographic reports, a new study suggests that some of the biggest grain-producing regions could run dry in the next 50 to 100 years.

USGS.org

After the new year, the Kansas Geological Survey will be measuring groundwater levels in western Kansas to monitor the health and sustainability of the High Plains aquifer.

Flyhighplato

In western Kansas, meanwhile, a farmer and local officials were recently honored for their efforts to preserve water.

A Finney County farmer and the City of Garden City were recognized earlier this month at the Governor’s Water Conference in Manhattan for taking measures to conserve, reuse or adopt practices aimed at preserving the state’s future water resources.

Has either of the two presidential candidates said anything about the Ogallala Aquifer?

As part of its ongoing ag reporting, Harvest Public Media reporters examine questions from readers and this is one of them.

We weren’t able to find any cases where the candidates specifically address the Ogallala Aquifer, but each has each spoken to sustainable water use - mostly with an eye to the West. (Neither the Clinton nor the Trump campaigns responded to a request for comment.)

KHI news service

From the Kansas Health Institute:

Gov. Sam Brownback’s office announced Tuesday he has signed into law a bill allowing the executive branch to suspend indefinitely the water rights of Kansans who fail to file annual water use reports.

Tiffany Stecker / eenews.net

It took 10 million years for the Ogallala Aquifer to fill with water. Now, says a report on eenews.net, after just over a century of pumping and irrigation, a third of the Ogallala is gone, and its future is in grave danger. The Ogallala supplies water to almost 20 percent of the nation's wheat and cotton crops and cattle. But in Haskell County, in the southwest corner of Kansas, water levels have dropped 150 feet since 1950. And that’s just one of many bleak examples.

www.nebraskaeducationonlocation.org

Some interesting facts about the Ogallala Aquifer came to light at the Panhandle-South Plains Water Conservation Symposium in Amarillo last week, reports Amarillo.com. For example, if the water currently in storage in the aquifer only covered the area of a football field, the water would stretch a quarter of the way to the moon.

Texas Tribune

A recent case in Texas pitted landowners against government officials in charge of the Central Texas reservoir known as the Edwards Aquifer. A jury is expected to announce damages soon, reports member station KUT. The case could have repercussions for High Plains landowners by showing how Texas water will be regulated in in the future.

What Is a Playa?

Feb 23, 2016

We grew up on the High Plains thinking of those occasionally muddy pasture depressions as "buffalo wallows," "rainwater basins" or "mud holes." Turns out, scientists are learning those playas play a significant role recharging aquifers such as the Ogallala.

‘Water’ the chances for one individual?

Feb 11, 2016
Kansas Geological Survey

From Agland:

While probably the majority of the people in western Kansas would like to conserve our irrigation water supplies, can one man go it alone?

Almost 40 years ago, I was sitting in the office of Extension ag economist Don Pretzer in Waters Hall on the campus of Kansas State University talking about ways to conserve the Ogallala Aquifer in western Kansas. And he made a very good observation.

mcdarius / Flickr Creative Commons

Beginning early next month Kansas Geological Survey crews will begin studying almost 600 Kansas wells. The research is part of an effort to measure changes in groundwater levels, reports KAKE.

Ogallala Resources Continue to Dwindle

Dec 27, 2015
Steve Elfers / USA TODAY

Time is running out for portions of the Ogallala Aquifer, which lies beneath eight states from South Dakota to Texas, reports NBC affiliate KING 5. The Ogallala makes possible about one-fifth of the country’s output of corn, wheat and cattle. But its levels have been rapidly declining, and with each passing year more wells are going dry.

www.gctelegram.com

Irrigation is no longer an option in Kansas’s smallest county, reports the Baldwin City Signal. After decades of overuse, the water source beneath Greeley County’s arid prairie has been sucked dry. Five years ago, county residents voted to allow a massive corporate hog-feeding operation to move in, thinking hogs use less water than crops.

USDA Continues to Invest in Ogallala Relief

Nov 16, 2015
ne.water.usgs.gov

The US Department of Agriculture will invest $8 million next year toward helping farmers and ranchers conserve water from the Ogallala Aquifer, while still maintaining and strengthening agricultural operations, reports Agri-Pulse.

Creative Commons

From Kansas Agland's "Watchdog":

The Kansas Department of Agriculture is considering increasing fines for people ignoring the state’s mandate to report annually the volume of water they pump from wells or for exceeding limits on water use.

That’s a no-brainer. An even better stick would be to revoke their water rights altogether.

Brownback Works to Preserve Ogallala

Sep 4, 2015
cstoddard / Flickr Creative Commons

Plentiful rains will not be enough to replenish the Ogallala Aquifer, notes the Hays Daily News. Last week, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback paid a visit to southwest Kansas, touring the bountiful fields there. But he stressed that the recent rains are insufficient to solve the crisis.

ewan_the_moomintroll / Flickr Creative Commons

America is losing groundwater at unsustainable rates. Although groundwater loss is underreported and poorly documented, it’s becoming a serious global problem, notes Beef Magazine.

Amber Waves of Change: High & Dry (Part 1)

Apr 3, 2015

Water- without it life ceases to exist. In the first of a four-part series, Professor David Guth takes a look at the struggle to find balance between water conservation and an economy based on water and agriculture.

Widespread agreement, no action yet on increasing overpumping penalties in Kansas.

Discussion was limited to four questions decided prior to the second regional water planning meeting in WaKeeney. Halting water declines at their current levels led one table’s discuss to the conclusion of “no irrigation and more education.” Water quality and nutrients steered to criticism of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the division of Water Resources for proposed regulations. Another group discussion asked the question, “How do you get people from broadly different backgrounds to come together, sit down, and discuss solutions?”

What Are Playas?

Feb 23, 2015

 We grew up on the High Plains thinking of those occasionally muddy pasture depressions as "buffalo wallows," "rainwater basins" or "mud holes." Turns out, scientists are learning those playas play a significant role recharging aquifers such as the Ogallala.

Get the facts about the Ogallala Aquifer

Jul 31, 2014
usgs.org

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

The water game: East vs. West

Jul 30, 2014
k-state.edu

One thing that mixes into the Kansas water debate is where you live.  I have a neighbor from eastern Kansas who works hard to get things that grow wild in pastures of her childhood home to simply survive in her western Kansas flower bed. 

Hauling water like pioneers in Rooks County

Jul 28, 2014
Tim Unruh / Salina Journal

Even though it’s 2014, for Jerry and Diane McReynolds they live like it’s the 1800s.  The McReynolds’ domestic well in Rooks County, Kansas, went dry in October 2013.   The couple are members of Rural Water District No. 3, but service is not reliable, especially during the day reported Tim Unruh for the Salina Journal.

Water is the cornerstone of SW Kansas economy

Jul 25, 2014
nasa.gov

The ag world is gearing up to feed 9 billion people, but the Ogallala Aquifer sprawling under the surface of eight Midwestern states is going down the drain.  In fact, in some places, it’s gone reported Amy Bickel for Kansas Agland.

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