Monitoring the Ogallala: Annual depth-to-water measurements begin soon

High Plains Underground Water Conservation District No. 1 personnel will soon be in the field to make annual depth-to-water measurements. This will determine the effect of pumpage during 2002 on ground water levels in the Ogallala aquifer within the district's 15-county service area.

Water level measurements are made in a network of more than 1,200 privately owned wells. The water level observation wells are spaced throughout the water district at a density of about one well per nine square miles.

“We will start taking measurements the first week in January,” said Don McReynolds, High Plains Water District technical division director. “We will be taking these measurements through late February or until the project is complete. We want everyone to be aware that our staff will be in the field during this time interval.”

Water district personnel make the water level measurement by lowering a steel tape to a pre-determined depth in the well. The first few feet of the tape in each well are coated with carpenters' chalk, which turns a darker shade of blue when it comes in contact with water. The distance from land surface to the static water level is determined by subtracting the amount of tape with the darker blue chalk from the total feet of tape extended into the well.

After the measurement is made, a vinyl sticker with the observation well number, the depth-to-water measurement, and the date of the measurement is affixed to the well equipment or other appropriate surface near the well site.

Water district personnel attempt to measure the same wells in the observation well network each year, as long as the individual wells provide satisfactory data. The current depth-to-water measurement in individual wells are compared to that of the previous year to determine the annual change in water levels in the Ogallala aquifer within the district.

The data are used to construct maps showing water level changes and the saturated thickness of the Ogallala aquifer within the district.

Maps showing the location and well number of the observation wells in each county or portion of a county served by the water district are published each year in the April issue of the water district's newsletterCross Section. The newsletter contains tables listing observation wells in each county within the district and the average annual change in water levels for one-year, five-year, and 10-year intervals.

Additional information is available by contacting McReynolds at the High Plains Underground Water Conservation District No. 1, 2930 Avenue Q, Lubbock, TX 79411-2499 or by calling (806) 762-0181. The water district's web site is You may e-mail questions to [email protected].

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