The Kansas River Watershed Enhancement Initiative
The Kansas (Kaw) River watershed is one of the most vital, heavily populated, and environmentally threatened ecosystems in the State of Kansas. Run-off of herbicides from farmland, fecal coliform bacteria from livestock operations and municipal wastewater treatment plants, and sand from dredging operations present the greatest threats to the river's ecology and water quality.
The goal of the Kansas River Watershed Enhancement Initiative (KRWEI) is to facilitate the preservation, enhancement, and appreciation of the cultural and natural resources of the Kaw watershed through partnerships with grassroots organizations, citizens, and state and local government entities. This goal is being realized primarily through EPA's support of, and participation in, the Kaw Valley Heritage Alliance (KVHA). This nonprofit organization has over 40 partners, including federal and state agencies, municipalities, universities, other nonprofit organizations, and private citizens.
EPA Region 7 and KVHA Partners
- National Park Service
- U.S. Geological Survey Kansas Water Office
- Kansas Department of Health and Environment
- Kansas State University
- University of Kansas
- Kansas Rural Center
- City of Lawrence, Kansas
- City of Topeka, Kansas
- Kansas State Historical Society
- Kansas Department of Agriculture
Recent KVHA Accomplishments
- Rollin' Down the River Festival : Nearly 300 educational programs carried out in 23 communities over 4 weeks create renewed awareness of the Kaw River Valley.
- Caring for the Kaw: A Citizen's Guide to Protecting Water Quality -A 56-page booklet emphasizing the need for pollution prevention by urban and rural residents of the watershed.
- Eagle Days Celebration : A day-long series of educational programs stressing the need for water quality and habitat protection, held during the annual winter migration of the bald eagle to Kansas.
- Sunflower Journeys : An EPA-underwritten, locally produced, PBS television series that focused on environmental and cultural topics important to Kansans and reached an estimated 20,000 people a week.
- Classroom to the Environment : An EPA-funded project supporting schools' environmental field trips and classroom speakers.
- Annual Workshops : Four annual workshops featuring speakers discussing a wide variety of environmental and cultural issues.
Current KVHA Activities
- Preparing a guidebook to the natural and cultural resources of the Kansas River;
- Developing a Watershed Strategic Plan and a Socioeconomic Assessment along the Kaw Valley;
- Organizing a volunteer monitoring program for schoolchildren; and
- Creating a summer environmental day camp for schoolchildren.
How can You Help Conserve and Protect Kaw Valley Habitat?
- Reduce waste, choose reusable products, and participate in recycling programs.
- Visit farmers' markets and join the local food coop.
- Use native plants in your yard and garden; they need fewer chemicals and water.
- Visit local areas of interest like the Konza Prairie Research Area near Manhattan and the Herbert Reinhardt Green Area west of Topeka. Express your appreciation for having these precious sites available.
- Use fewer chemicals on lawn, gardens, fields and forests to protect water quality in the Kaw and its tributaries. Dispose of household hazardous materials properly.
Other Activities of KRWEI
- Environmental Farm Planning - The output of this grant will be the development of concise assessment tools for use by farm managers located in the Kansas River watershed in the preparation of whole farm management plans for the protection of water quality.
- Urban Watershed Planning Guidance - This project will focus on preventing non-point source pollution from storm water runoff and other sources by promoting alternative urban development practices.
- Wetland/Riparian Area Protection Grant - Work continues under this grant for the development of detailed assessments and prioritization of wetland/riparian resources in targeted watersheds.
Why Should We Protect the Kansas River?
- Increasing population places pressures on cultural and natural resources;
- It is the source of most of the Kaw Valley citizen' water supply;
- It provides the principal river-based recreational opportunities in Kansas;
- It is recognized as a watershed with significant pollution problems;
- Its physical changes (sand dredging and reservoirs) have affected the river's ecology adversely;
- Certain stretches of the river are subject to fish consumption advisories.
EPA Region 7 Contact
Kathleen L. Fenton
CARE Program Manager