Project will map counties' aquifer water

GARDEN CITY — A geologic mapping project to begin this summer in Haskell County will provide a better and more accurate look at the availability of aquifer water in the region, university researchers say.

The Kansas Geological Survey, based at the University of Kansas, has received funding from the U.S. Geological Survey for mapping projects in seven Kansas counties, including Haskell, and test drilling in the northeast corner of the county could begin as early as June 1, said KU geologist Greg Ludvigson.

Because Haskell County has experienced significant water-level declines in the underlying High Plains Aquifer, the information will be especially useful in planning for future water use. The vast but shallow aquifer is the source of nearly all municipal and irrigation water in the region and covers nearly eight states.

"The area is under severe stress, and water levels have been dropping very fast, which could create conflicts over water use," Ludvigson said. "There's a dire need for (3-D mapping) to be done throughout the High Plains, but this is just the beginning."

He added that adequate funding has been a barrier to collecting updated information about the aquifer's characteristics, and the planned project that could take between three and five years to complete is "long overdue."

The $221,000 U.S. Geological Survey awards also will support ongoing geologic mapping in Reno, McPherson, Harvey and Morris counties, and new projects in Jefferson and Atchison counties.

The counties also were chosen because of environmental and cultural changes, such as industrial and residential growth, expanding transportation infrastructure, geologic hazards and declines in water quantity or quality.

Geologic maps depict rock layers and materials such as sand and gravel at the surface or just beneath the soil.

When completed, the maps will be available to the public.

More information about Kansas Geological Survey county maps and other publications is available at www.kgs.ku.edu.