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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories

Kansas (Section 319I - 1994)

Kansas is using a basin-by-basin approach to achieve water quality standards and has a statewide ranking system to assign priorities. The state works actively with local interest groups to focus and develop demonstration projects that address particular nonpoint source pollution problems.

Water Quality Problems in Hillsdale Reservoir

Water quantity is not a problem in northeastern Kansas these days, but water quality is.

The Hillsdale Reservoir in Miami County provides 1.3 million gallons of drinking water each day to more than 20,000 area residents. In addition, the 4,500-acre lake offers such recreational activities as hunting and fishing, boating, swimming, picnicking, bird watching, and sightseeing. In 1991, 214,000 visitors enjoyed activities at Hillsdale Reservoir--and some 80 fishing tournaments were held there. The reservoir, which includes a dam and lake, was designed as a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood control structure. Completed in 1982, it receives discharge from 17 tributaries and drainage from 144 square miles in four counties--Miami, Douglas, Franklin, and Johnson.

Today, the Hillsdale Reservoir is falling victim to pollution from the watershed. Water quality is threatened by nutrients and pesticides from cropland, small feedlots, and wastewater treatment discharges. Urban expansion in the watershed is also a major concern.

Despite its young age, the reservoir is suffering from cultural eutrophication, or rapid aging. Eutrophication occurs in all lakes, even those with natural, undisturbed watersheds. But Hillsdale's problem comes from human activities that increase the amount of nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen) in the reservoir, which speed eutrophication. Cultural eutrophication can cause blue-green algae blooms, floating plants, a shortage of dissolved oxygen necessary for survival of aquatic life, fish kills, and undesirable tastes and odors in drinking water. Other problems include concentrations of the pesticides atrazine and alachlor.

In response to public concern about the deteriorating water quality of the Hillsdale Reservoir, a citizen's management committee is developing and implementing a long-term program to protect this water resource. The five-year Hillsdale Water Quality Protection Project began in November 1992, and a project manager began work in May 1993. The expected project cost is $1.2 million, with $731,265 being requested from section 319 and $469,510 being provided through a combination of state general and water plan funds and local funds. Section 319 funds totaling $202,000 have been approved for the first two years. The Lake Region Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) assist in organizing and staffing the program. The Hillsdale Reservoir Watershed Protection Management Plan is a cooperative venture between local, state, and federal agencies and organizations and the patrons of Hillsdale Reservoir. The reservoir has been selected by the ASCS as a targeted water quality improvement project focused in the reservoir's Big Bull Creek area.

The goals of the comprehensive watershed water quality management project is to implement nonpoint source pollution control measures to reduce the current nutrient loading rate and maintain the existing trophic state of Hillsdale Lake. This means maintaining an annual average total phosphorus concentration of 60 micrograms per liter and an annual average chlorophyll (a) concentration of 8 micrograms per liter. In addition, the project sets specific water quality goals in tributary streams (Table 7-1). Finally, the project will put in place minimum pollution control measures on every nonpoint pollution source in the Hillsdale watershed.

The project has five elements:

  • Information and education. Through watershed activities, personal contacts, and demonstration projects, these tasks will inform local residents about the project and how their actions affect water quality.
  • Adopting management practices. Information and education should spur nonstructural activities, such as animal waste management practices.
  • Installing structural practices. Practices such as waste holding ponds or constructed wetlands will be selected by working one-on-one with watershed landowners.
  • Monitoring. This includes tracking pollution control practices and the resulting water quality conditions.
  • Evaluation. This determines if the project is progressing as planned and achieving its water quality objectives, allowing for adjustments as necessary.

Watershed nonpoint sources contribute more than 90 percent of the total phosphorus load to the reservoir (Table 7-2). The plan specifies pollution control practices for the watershed's various land uses and sets out a timetable for action. The first two years of the project focus on implementation and maintenance of - recommended minimum control practices through information, education, and technical assistance. The first-year plan encourages adopting management and low-cost structural practices and determines if capital intensive structural controls are needed. The second year emphasizes one-on-one contacts and determines the need for financial assistance to install structural practices.

The project will work to slow the eutrophication of Hillsdale Reservoir by controlling nitrogen and phosphorus discharges from cities, industries, urbanized land, and agricultural land. The project will also help reduce pesticide use, control soil erosion and livestock pollution sources, rotate crops, maintain septic tanks and other on-site wastewater disposal systems, and establish permanent vegetation. The plan spells out 10 measures of success. They include increased public awareness and concern for the lake's health and use of nonpoint source controls by rural land owners, in livestock operations, on cropland, in range and pasture lands, and for all urban runoff. The ultimate success is to maintain the water quality in Hillsdale Lake and its tributaries.


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