High Plains Water-Level Monitoring Study (Groundwater Resources Program)

High Plains Water-Level Monitoring Study

The High Plains Water-Level Monitoring Study (HPWLMS) is the USGS's response to a directive from Congress to report on water-level changes in the High Plains [Ogallala] aquifer (figure 1).

Location map showing the boundary of the High Plains aquifer, major cities and roads, and altitude of land surface.

Figure 1. Location map showing the boundary of the High Plains aquifer, major cities and roads, and altitude of land surface.

Outcrop of the Ogallala Formation near the Canadian River, Hemphill County, Texas (Photo courtesy of K.F. Dennehy, USGS).

The directive from Congress was contained in the Water Resources Development Act of 1986 (Public Law 99-662). This law recognized the economic importance of the High Plains aquifer to the States in the High Plains region and added Title III to the Water Resources Research Act of 1984 (Public Law 98-242). Title III states that the USGS in cooperation with "...the States of the High Plains region is authorized and directed to monitor the levels of the Ogallala [High Plains] Aquifer, and report annually to Congress."

The original directive was modified by the Federal Reports Elimination and Sunset Act of 1995 (Public Law 104-66). In this legislation, Congress directed the USGS to report on water-level changes in the Ogallala [High Plains] aquifer every two years instead of annually.

The objectives of the HPWLMS are:

  • To assemble water-level measurements from the States that overlie the High Plains aquifer—Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming;
  • To map water-level changes in the aquifer from predevelopment (generally 1950) or 1980 to spring of the report year using water levels measured by Federal, State, and local agencies;
  • To determine change in water in storage in the aquifer using the water-level data and estimates of specific yield (Gutentag and others, 1984); and
  • Every two years, to report water-level changes and changes in water in storage to Congress and to the public.

Animation: Water-level Change in the High Plains Aquifer System

New publication brief

 Water-level and storage changes in the High Plains aquifer, predevelopment to 2011 and 200911 (7 Mb PDF)

Information on the High Plains Aquifer

Summary Statistics from Past USGS Reports - 1987 to 2011

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