AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – The High Plains Water District on Monday published the results of its 2023 water level measurements, as well as an update to its interactive online map, showing a more distinct average water level change across the region than 2022 and a slightly lower average saturated thickness of the Ogallala/Edwards-Trinity Aquifer System.
As previously explained on MyHighPlains.com, saturated thickness is the distance from the top of the water table to the base of the aquifer, as measured at a collection of individual wells across the region. This method is used to track water levels for the aquifer via its depth in specific counties instead of a general estimation of volume. Across its 16-county district, the HPWD said that it measured an average saturated thickness change of -0.71 feet from 2022 to 2023. On average, the counties in the district measured a saturated thickness of about 52 feet.
In comparison, the change recorded by the HPWD from 2021 to 2022 was an average of -0.63 feet, with an average thickness of 53 feet across the counties. Unlike in the 2022 report, the 2023 measurements from HPWD showed no average water level increase for the year, whereas both Lubbock and Armstrong Counties previously saw slight increases.
Around the Amarillo area, as noted by the report, the water level dropped by about one-third of a foot in Potter County and a quarter of a foot in Randall County. Hockley County appeared to be the one among the district that nearly saw no change at all to its water level, while Castro County was the most significant in dropping nearly two feet.
The 2023 report also saw the absence of any net gain for any county’s water level in the last five years, while Armstrong County previously stood alone in an average gain of 0.79 feet. The report noted that Castro County has lost a staggering average of over 10 feet to its water level in the last five years, with its neighboring Parmer County seeing the next-most drastic change of a loss of 6.5 feet.
As released by the HPWD, more detailed statistics of the measured changes to the Ogallala/Edwards-Trinity Aquifer System across the High Plains region include:
- 20 wells with declines of 5 feet or more
- 14 wells with declines of 4 to 4.99 feet
- 35 wells with declines of 3 to 3.99 feet
- 98 wells with declines of 2 to 2.99 feet
- 248 wells with declines of 1 to 1.99 feet
- 564 wells with declines of 0 to 0.99 feet
- 310 wells with rises of 0.01 feet or more
Meanwhile, the Dockum Aquifer, which mostly rests underneath the Ogallala except for a few outcroppings that connect it to the Canadian and Colorado Rivers, saw more significant average changes. The HPWD reported that from 2022 to 2023, the Dockum Aquifer’s water level across nine counties changed by about -2.51 feet, with Randall County seeing the most significant drop of -34.71 feet. Floyd County, at the same time, appeared to gain 20.46 feet through the year.
Overall, in the last year, the High Plains has continued to deal with significant drought conditions that have contributed to both surface and groundwater supplies. As previously covered on MyHighPlains.com, while the severity of drought conditions across significant portions of the region has lessened since April 2022, they have persisted and even begun to expand again in some areas.
While the impact on rainfall and water supplies in the region due to the end of the La Niña weather pattern has yet to be seen, the most recent measurements and condition reports for the groundwater levels on the High Plains continue to be updated on the HPWD website’s interactive map.