Newspaper Article - Clyde & Glenda Schinnerer
Farmers make changes as water levels fall Some areas of aquifer have been in use for 250 years By AMY BICKEL The Hutchinson News HUTCHINSON — When the well went dry, Clyde and Glenda Schinnerer decided to face reality They decided they could no longer live on their Scott County farm. The farm's water supply stopped flowing from the tap at times. Solutions included a new water source, but that came with a high price tag and an indefinite useful life. By 1979, the Schinnerers knew they had a tough decision to make. "We moved to town," Clyde Schinnerer, 79, said. Their story represents many similar tales that echo across western Kansas' Ogallala Aquifer The Ogallala remains one of the state's richest water resources. Tapping into the underground cache more than 50 years ago allowed the semiarid landscape to grow and prosper. Farmers began growing corn, which attracted cattle feedlots, then meat packing plants. However, too many wells have tapped the aquifer and drawn down water levels. Some areas have more than 250 years of water use. Others, including Scott County, have less. Depletion persists as farmers continue to irrigate, said Brownie Wilson, Kansas Geological Survey water-data manager. Wilson's agency recently completed its annual measurement of 1,300 water wells across the state. "We expect some level of decline every year," he said. Not an infinite resource When Clyde Schinnerer helped his father drill their family farm's first irrigation well in the mid-1950s, most considered the aquifer an infinite resource. Today, water levels have fallen so much that irrigators can no longer sustain the same pumping rates. Overappropriation of water rights dropped the water table by more than 100 feet in some areas. Schinnerer helped start Kansas' first groimdwater management district — GMD No. 1 in west-central Kansas — because of the decline. His wells that once pumped 1,000 gallons a minute dropped to 300 gallons a minute before he quit farming. "It got to a point where we couldn't plant corn," he said. "The water was just about gone." The aquifer underneath southwest Kansas declined 15 feet in the past decade, according to the annual survey In 2005, decline averaged a foot. Areas between Garden City and Meade and Hugoton and Liberal had the biggest declines — about 5 feet for both. "Every cupful of water you take out of the aquifer is one less cupful that is going to be there," said Steve Irsik, an irrigator near Ingalls who chairs the Kansas Water Authority, a 24-member board that provides policy advice to the Kansas Legislature. "The fact is we're in a semiarid area with limited rainfall and very little recharge."