Water Center


Water-level and storage changes in the High Plains aquifer, predevelopment to 2011 and 2009-11

Virginia L. McGuire, Nebraska Water Science Center

Document Type Article

United States government work


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.