Nebraska Water Science Center

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High Plains Aquifer Water-Level Monitoring Study
Water-Level Changes in the High Plains Aquifer - Predevelopment to 1989

By Jack T. Dugan, Donald E. Schild, and William M. Kastner

U.S. Geological Survey
Water-Resources Investigations Report 90-4153
Lincoln, Nebraska


Changes in water levels in the High Plains aquifer underlying parts of South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas result from the variability of precipitation, land use, and ground-water pumpage. Water levels declined from the time aquifer development began until 1980 throughout much of the High Plains, except in South Dakota and Wyoming. From 1980 to 1989, water-level changes were variable, with declines ranging from 7.5 feet to more than 15 feet in the areas of intense irrigation development in Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Large areas showing 7.5 to 15 feet of decline were present in northeastern Colorado, southwestern Nebraska, and in Box Butte County, Nebraska. Water levels were either stable or rising in the remaining areas of the aquifer, with some areas showing rises of more than 15 feet. The average area-weighted water-level change from 1980 to 1989 was a decline of 0.23 foot. A decrease in ground-water pumpage for irrigated agriculture was associated with above normal precipitation throughout the High Plains during 1981 through 1988.

Water-level changes from 1988 to 1989 also were variable. Water-levels continued to decline in most highly developed areas, rose only in scattered, isolated areas, and remained almost stable in more than half of the study area. The average area-weighted change from 1988 to 1989 was a decline of 0.65 foot, which is larger than the change from 1980 to 1989. This decline was due to the large water-level declines in eastern Nebraska and most of Kansas that were related to below-normal precipitation and an increase in pumpage in irrigated areas.

This report (WRIR 90-4153) is available online.

To obtain a copy of this report, please contact:

USGS Nebraska Water Science Center
5231 South 19th Street
Lincoln, Nebraska 68512-1271
Phone (402) 328-4100
FAX (402) 328-4101

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