Researchers at the Kansas Geological Survey are hoping to make the state's water picture a bit clearer for legislators, farmers and others who are concerned about one of the state's most important resources.
Scientists at the survey recently have produced a non-technical book, "Kansas Ground Water: An Introduction to the State's Water Quality, Quantity and Management Issues." The book has been in the making about three years.
"It's obviously an issue of growing concern across the state," said Rex Buchanan, assistant director at the survey, who compiled the book along with Robert Buddemeier, senior scientist at the survey.
The 44-page book contains maps, charts and defines terms used in water studies, management, and use.
Its primary audience is students, legislators, members of state and local water agencies "and anyone who is interested in ground water," Buchanan said.
The book, the scientists said, is the first such non-technical publication produced by the geological survey on ground water.
"Mostly it's a resource that can be used as background material" for legislators and others who may be setting future water-use policies.
Buchanan and Buddemeier said one of the primary goals in producing the book is to stress the differences between ground water and surface water.
Ground water is used primarily in western Kansas, while surface water is used mostly in the eastern part of the state.
"That's why it's difficult to develop water-use policies for the whole state," Buchanan said. "What you're really talking about is two different resources."
Ground water from one of the state's best-known aquifers, the Ogallala formation, is being removed far faster than it is being replaced.
"For many years, people believed that ground water was an inexhaustible resource," said Buddemeier. "The past few decades have made it clear that we are pumping water from aquifers, such as the Ogallala, far faster than it is being replaced."
The heavy use of ground water has lowered water levels -- dramatically in some locations, such as southwestern Kansas -- and it may be responsible for dried-up springs and streams.
But threats to ground water involve more than dropping water tables.
Water quality has deteriorated significantly in some parts of Kansas. Saltwater pollution, both natural and man-made, is a problem in central Kansas. Nitrates and other chemicals also pose water-contamination problems.
"We know now that water-quality problems are difficult to fix, once they occur," Buddemeier said. "That means it's crucial to prevent contamination. That requires an improved understanding of ground water, which is one purpose of this book."
In addition, the scientists say, the book can help land owners determine whether they might have ground water under their property.
Copies of the book are available from the Kansas Geological Survey, 1930 Constant Avenue, Lawrence, 66047.