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Archive for Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Snow, rains recharge aquifers

June 26, 2007

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— A winter and spring filled with moisture may be bad news for some, but it's been beneficial for the state's aquifers, particularly the Equus Beds in south-central Kansas.

Water levels have risen more than 5 feet since January at several monitoring wells in the Equus Beds, which supplies more than half a million people in south-central Kansas with drinking water, state officials said.

A 5-foot water increase in the aquifer translates to 21 billion gallons of water, said David Warren, water utilities director for Wichita, which gets part of its drinking water from the Equus Beds.

With the Arkansas River flowing so full, Wichita has been injecting 10 million gallons of water every day into the aquifer to further increase water levels, Warren said, and hopes to increase that to 30 million to 40 million gallons a day, he said.

Aquifers in western Kansas do not recharge as easily because the water table is farther below the surface and moisture must go through clay and shale rather than the sandy soils in south-central Kansas.

"With the differences in the weather, the geology and the hydrology rates, we're almost two different states," said Tim Boese, the interim manager of the Groundwater Management District No. 2, which oversees use of the Equus Beds.

But the snow and rain during the winter and spring helped aquifers across the state, Boese and others said, allowing farmers and homeowners to use less water to irrigate crops and lawns.

"We're getting a double boost," Boese said. "Rain is going down (into the aquifer) and there's not as much pumpage."

No drought conditions have been recorded anywhere in the state since March, and much of the state has been well above normal for the past six months in the National Drought Mitigation Center's standardized precipitation index.

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