Kansas Real-Time Water Quality

USGS station:

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Time period:

Funding to maintain the continuous water-quality monitor at this site ended on September 30, 2005.

Study Information

Understanding Changing Water-Quality Conditions in the Kansas River: Informing Management Strategies Through a Real-Time Water-Quality Notification System and 50-Year Retrospective Analysis

Period of Project: July 2018 through June 2023

Study Overview

The Kansas River and its associated alluvial aquifer are primary sources of drinking water for about 800,000 people in northeastern Kansas. In addition to serving as a drinking-water supply, designated uses of the Kansas River include recreation, aquatic life support, food procurement, groundwater recharge, irrigation, and livestock watering. Water-treatment facilities that use the Kansas River as a water-supply source use chemical and physical processes during water treatment to remove contaminants before public distribution. Advanced notification of changing water-quality conditions near water-supply intakes allows water-treatment facilities to proactively adjust treatment.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with the Kansas Water Office (funded in part through the Kansas Water Plan), the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, The Nature Conservancy, the City of Lawrence, the City of Manhattan, the City of Olathe, the City of Topeka, and Johnson County WaterOne, collect water-quality data in the Kansas River to update and develop regression models relating continuous water-quality sensor measurements, streamflow, and seasonal components to discretely sampled water-quality constituent concentrations or densities. The water-quality information collected during this study can be used as guidance for water-treatment processes and to characterize changes in water-quality conditions in the Kansas River over time that would not be otherwise possible.


The Kansas River at De Soto is one of 110 stream and river sites with long-term, consistent information on streamflow and water-quality conditions as part of the USGS National Water Quality Network (NWQN). NWQN data are collected to assess water-quality conditions and trends at large inland and coastal river sites, and small streams indicative of urban, agricultural, and reference conditions. These data are used in local, regional, or national-scale studies related to multiple topics, including drinking water-quality, chemical fate and transport, and harmful algal blooms.

Real-Time Water-Quality Notification System for Drinking-Water Suppliers Using the Kansas River as a Source Water Supply

Period of Project: July 2012-June 2017

Study Overview

Cyanobacteria (also called blue-green algae) may produce toxins and taste-and-odor compounds that cause substantial economic and public health concerns, and are of particular interest in lakes, reservoirs, and rivers that are used for drinking-water supply. The Kansas River is a primary source of drinking water for about 800,000 people in northeastern Kansas. The sources, frequency of occurrence, and causes of cyanobacteria and associated toxins and taste-and-odor compounds in the Kansas River have not been fully characterized. The development of an advance notification system of changing water-quality conditions and cyanotoxin and taste-and-odor occurrences will allow drinking-water treatment facilities time to develop and implement adequate treatment strategies.


The specific objectives of this proposed work are to: 1) provide an advanced real-time notification system with sufficient lead time to alert water suppliers that use the Kansas River as a source-water supply of changing water-quality conditions that may affect treatment processes or cause cyanotoxin and/or taste-and-odor events and 2) characterize the sources, frequency of occurrence, and potential causes, including fate and transport from upstream reservoirs, of cyanobacteria and associated toxins and taste-and-odor compounds in the Kansas River. These objectives will be accomplished by:

  1. Installation, operation, and maintenance of real-time water-quality monitors at 2 existing USGS streamflow-gaging sites on the Kansas River.
  2. Routine sample collection at these 2 sites over the range of hydrologic conditions.
  3. Development of statistical relations between collected samples and sensor values to provide real-time estimates of chemical concentrations for a number of constituents, including cyanotoxins and taste-and-odor compounds.

NAWQA Monitoring Network:

The Kansas River at De Soto is included in a national stream monitoring network as part of the USGS National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) program. This site was added to the network late in 2012 when NAWQA began the third decade (Cycle 3) of data collection and scientific studies. Goals for the program are to assess the Nation’s water quality and how it has changed over time, evaluate how human and natural factors affect water quality, determine the effects of key stressors (contaminants, nutrients, sediment, and streamflow alteration) on aquatic ecosystems, and predict the effects of human and natural factors on water quality and ecosystems. Additional information about the NAWQA program can be found at http://water.usgs.gov/nawqa/.

Continuous Real-Time Water-Quality Monitoring for TMDLs in the Lower Kansas River Basin

Period of Project: July 1999-September 2005


  1. Maintain a continuous, real-time, water quality network on the lower Kansas River.
  2. Develop statistical relations between commonly measured water-quality characteristic and constituents of concern.
  3. Estimate loads and variability for nutrients, suspended sediment, dissolved solids, bacteria, and major ions in the lower Kanas River under different seasonal, temporal, and flow conditions.
  4. Develop the relation between E. coli and fecal coliform bacteria.

Continuous water-quality monitors have been installed at three locations along the Kansas River (Wamego, Topeka, DeSoto) to provide continuous measurement of specific conductance, pH, water temperature, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity. Regression models are being developed to provide continuous estimates of river chemical concentrations based on the the relation between laboratory-analyzed samples and instream sensor measurements. This project is made possible through a cooperative agreement with Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

External Links

For Additional Information

Please contact:

Teresa Rasmussen
1217 Biltmore Dr., Lawrence, KS 66049
Tel: (785)832-3576, Fax: (785)832-3500
E-mail: rasmuss@usgs.gov