US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in Scientific Investigations Report 2012-5291 (2012) 24 pages.


The High Plains aquifer underlies 111.8 million acres (175,000 square miles) in parts of eight States—Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. Water-level declines began in parts of the High Plains aquifer soon after the beginning of substantial irrigation with groundwater in the aquifer area. This report presents water-level changes in the High Plains aquifer from the time before substantial groundwater irrigation development began (generally before 1950, and termed “predevelopment” in this report) to 2011 and from 2009–11. The report also presents total water in storage, 2011, and change in water in storage in the aquifer from predevelopment to 2011. The methods to calculate area-weighted, average water-level changes; change in water in storage; and total water in storage for this report used geospatial data layers organized as rasters with a cell size of about 62 acres. These methods were modified from methods used in previous reports in an attempt to improve estimates of water-level changes and change in water in storage.

Water-level changes from predevelopment to 2011, by well, ranged from a rise of 85 feet to a decline of 242 feet. The area-weighted, average water-level changes in the aquifer were an overall decline of 14.2 feet from predevelopment to 2011, and a decline of 0.1 foot from 2009–11. Total water in storage in the aquifer in 2011 was about 2.96 billion acre-feet, which was a decline of about 246 million acre-feet since predevelopment.