The Equus Beds aquifer northwest of Wichita, Kansas, was developed to supply water to Wichita residents and for irrigation in south-central Kansas. Ground-water pumping for city and agricultural use from the aquifer caused water levels to decline in a large part of the aquifer northwest of Wichita. Irrigation pumpage in the area increased substantially during the 1970s and 1980s and accelerated water-level declines. A period of water-level rises associated with greater-than-average precipitation and decreased city pumpage from the area began in 1993. An important factor in the decreased city pumpage was increased use of Cheney Reservoir as a water-supply source by the city of Wichita; as a result, city pumpage from the Equus Beds aquifer during 1993-2005 decreased to quantities similar to those pumped in the 1940s and went from being about 60 percent to about 40 percent of Wichita's water usage. Since 1995, the city also has been investigating the use of artificial recharge in the study area to meet future water-supply needs and to protect the aquifer from the intrusion of saltwater from sources to the west.
During January 2006, the direction of ground-water flow in the Equus Beds aquifer in the area was generally from west to east, similar to the direction prior to development of the aquifer. Water-level changes since 1940 for the period January 2003-January 2006 ranged from a decline of more than 36 feet to a rise of more than 2 feet. Almost all wells in the area had small cumulative water-level rises from January 2003 to January 2006 and larger rises from October 1992 (period of maximum storage loss) to January 2006. The water-level rises from October 1992 to January 2006 probably are due principally to decreases in city pumpage, with increases in recharge due to increased precipitation during the period also a contributing factor. Irrigation pumpage increased during the period, so irrigation did not contribute to the rises in water levels between the beginning and end of the period. The storage volume change from October 1992 to January 2006 represents a recovery of about 55 percent of the storage volume previously lost between August 1940 and October 1992.