Drought conditions resulted in above-average groundwater pumping within the 16-county High Plains Underground Water Conservation District (HPWD) service area in 2020.
An average decline of -1.33 feet was observed in the groundwater levels of the Ogallala/Edwards-Trinity (High Plains) Aquifer (ETHP) from 2020 to 2021. In early 2021, HPWD field personnel made annual water level measurements in a network of more than 1,300 privately-owned water wells in the Ogallala/ETHP Aquifer.
An average increase in water levels was noted in the portion of Crosby County within the district.
The other 15 counties recorded average declines, according to HPWD Field Technician Supervisor Keith Whitworth.
He shared the 2020-2021 statistics for Ogallala/ETHP Aquifer observation wells with publishable measurements:
▪ 150 observation wells with increases ranging from .01 to 7.62 feet.
▪ 545 observation wells with decreases ranging from 0 to -0.99 of a foot.
▪ 306 observation wells with decreases ranging from -1 to -1.99 feet.
▪ 141 observation wells with decreases ranging from -2 to -2.99 feet.
▪ 92 observation wells with decreases ranging from -3 to -3.99 feet.
▪ 49 observation wells with decreases ranging from -4 to -4.99 feet.
▪ 40 observation wells with decreases ranging from -5 to -10.79 feet
“Each year, there are wells that show water level rises and others that show water level declines. The largest water level rise was 7.62 feet in a Crosby County well and the largest water level decline was -10.79 feet in a Castro County well,” said Whitworth.
The average saturated thickness of the Ogallala/ETHP Aquifer within the District is 54 feet (2020-2021). This is a decline of a foot from the previous year’s measurements. In addition, water level measurements were made in 32 Dockum Aquifer wells. An average change of -2.95 feet was recorded in these monitor wells. This was -0.61 of a foot in 2019-2020.
Agricultural producers, towns and cities, and others have increased dependence upon groundwater in drier years.
Normal rainfall for Amarillo is 20.36 inches and 19.12 inches for Lubbock, according to the National Weather Service. However, in 2020, Amarillo received 12.58 inches of precipitation (7.78 inches below normal) and Lubbock received 11.55 inches (7.57 inches below normal).
“There’s no doubt that 2020 was a very dry year. HPWD has installed rain gauges near its continuous water level monitoring sites. In the past two years, it is difficult to find a site that has received a one-inch rain in a 24-hour period,” said HPWD General Manager Jason Coleman.
"Because of this, water wells within the district have had to be pumped to make up for lack of rainfall.”
Results of the 2020 water level measurements and updated saturated thickness information are now available on the interactive map on the HPWD website (map.hpwd.org).
Those who want printed information should contact Jed Leibbrandt at (806) 762-0181 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can provide print copies of water level measurement data for an individual county or specific counties of interest.
High Plains Water District field personnel measured 1,347 privately-owned observation wells in the Ogallala and Edwards-Trinity (High Plains) Aquifers in early 2021 to determine the water level changes since 2020. The water level change in feet is shown in the legend.