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High Plains Groundwater Availability Study

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High Plains Groundwater Availability Study

New Tool Available for Assessing Water Availability in the Northern High Plains Aquifer

A new U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report titled, "Groundwater-Flow Model of the Northern High Plains Aquifer in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming" has been released. The model can be applied by multiple entities to better understand flow, quantity, sources and sinks of groundwater in the Northern High Plains Aquifer, which covers approximately 100,000 square miles across Nebraska, South Dakota, Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming. Data associated with the model and report is available on the USGS Water Resources NSDI Node.

“An assessment like this has not been done since the USGS High Plains Regional Aquifer-System Analysis (RASA) study completed in the 1980s, so this effort represents a substantial update of the technology and science beyond what was available during that time,” said USGS scientist Steve Peterson, lead author of the study. “Plus there were considerable more data available to use for the analysis, and the system has changed and undergone more development since that time.”

Description of Study

The objective of the U.S. Geological Survey Groundwater Availability Study is three fold: 1) quantify the current groundwater resources of the priority aquifer; 2) evaluate how these resources have changed over time, and 3) provide tools to forecast aquifer responses to stresses from future human and environmental uses. The High Plains (fig. 1) Groundwater Availability Study began in 2009.

Water availability is a function of many factors, including the quantity and quality of water and the laws, regulations, economics, and environmental factors that control its use. The focus of the High Plains Groundwater Availability Study is on improving fundamental knowledge of the water balance of the basin, including the flows, storage, and water use by humans and the environment. An improved quantitative understanding of the basin's water balance not only provides key information about water quantity but also is a fundamental basis for many analyses of water quality and ecosystem health.

A new groundwater-flow model for the northern High Plains aquifer (fig. 2) will be developed and used as a tool to understand how the aquifer responses to the continuing and in some cases growing demands on the groundwater resources in the northern High Plains aquifer. Additionally, through the collection of existing information a water budget will be developed for the entire aquifer.

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Figure 1. Location of the
High Plains Aquifer

Click to zoom in

Figure 2. Northern High
Plains Aquifer.

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For information about the High Plains Groundwater Availability Study, please contact Steve Peterson.
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Page Last Modified: January 23, 2013

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