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Ogallala Aquifer Water Levels Continue Decline

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LAWRENCE, Kan. (KNS) – The Ogallala Aquifer declined by an average of nearly two feet across western and central Kansas this past year. That’s roughly twice as much in 2022 as in the previous year. 

The ongoing drought has pushed farmers to use more water than normal for irrigation.

Brownie Wilson leads the annual measurement for the Kansas Geological Survey. He says getting more farmers to adopt water-saving tools like soil moisture sensors could help slow down these declines. “They kind of realized that maybe they were putting on a little too much water, trying to irrigate like grandpa did,” Wilson said. “And then with the technology that we have in place now that they’re realizing that maybe they can get by another day or two without turning that well on.” 

Wilson says, for much of the region, there’s still time to make changes to extend the aquifer’s life. He says helping more farmers use water-saving irrigation technology or switch to crops that need less water could help slow the depletion while keeping agriculture alive. 

The Geological Survey says parts of western Kansas with the worst depletion would need to reduce their water use by one-third to one-half to stop the draining of the underground reservoir.

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