Water Level Declines in the High Plains Aquifer: Predevelopment to Resource Senescence

Erin M.K. Haacker, Anthony D. Kendall, David W. Hyndman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

130 Scopus citations


A large imbalance between recharge and water withdrawal has caused vital regions of the High Plains Aquifer (HPA) to experience significant declines in storage. A new predevelopment map coupled with a synthesis of annual water levels demonstrates that aquifer storage has declined by approximately 410km3 since the 1930s, a 15% larger decline than previous estimates. If current rates of decline continue, much of the Southern High Plains and parts of the Central High Plains will have insufficient water for irrigation within the next 20 to 30 years, whereas most of the Northern High Plains will experience little change in storage. In the western parts of the Central and northern part of the Southern High Plains, saturated thickness has locally declined by more than 50%, and is currently declining at rates of 10% to 20% of initial thickness per decade. The most agriculturally productive portions of the High Plains will not support irrigated production within a matter of decades without significant changes in management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)231-242
Number of pages12
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


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