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Kansas Real-Time Water Quality

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Study Information

Understanding Water-Quality Conditions in the North Fork Ninnescah River and Cheney Reservoir

The primary purpose of Cheney Reservoir is to provide the city of Wichita, Kansas, with a reliable municipal water supply, downstream flood control, wildlife habitat, and recreation. Approximately 70 percent of Wichita's municipal water supply came from Cheney Reservoir. Water-supply needs and reliance on Cheney Reservoir will continue to increase with ongoing population growth and urban development. Source-water protection is essential to preserving water-quality conditions and ensuring safe and reliable drinking-water supplies in the future.

Since 1996, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with the City of Wichita, has conducted studies in the Cheney Reservoir watershed with the goal of understanding and improving water quality. Initial studies (1996-2001) determined sub-basin sources of contaminants, chemical loading into and out of Cheney Reservoir, changes in reservoir sediment quality over time, and watershed sources of phosphorus. Later studies (after 2001) focused on real-time estimation of water-quality constituent concentrations and mass transport from the watershed, and the description of in-reservoir conditions that may result in the occurrence of cyanobacteria and associated compounds like taste and odor. Knowledge gained from these studies has assisted in the development, implementation, maintenance, and assessment of watershed-management goals and plans to maintain Cheney Reservoir as a public-water supply and recreational resource.

Study Overview

Cheney Reservoir was constructed by the Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Department of the Interior, between 1962 and 1965 to provide downstream flood control, wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities, and a reliable municipal water supply for the city of Wichita, Kansas. The city of Wichita acquires about 70% of its daily water supply (2005) from Cheney Reservoir and provides water to about 400,000 residents in the Wichita area. The Cheney Reservoir watershed includes an estimated 933 square miles of contributing drainage area from the North Fork Ninnescah River and associated tributary streams. The North Fork Ninnescah River is the major inflow to Cheney Reservoir and accounts for approximately 70% of the water flowing into the reservoir.

Cyanobacterial blooms in drinking-water supplies and recreational water bodies raise ecologic, economic, and public health concerns. Because of increased treatment costs and customer dissatisfaction with malodorous drinking-water, cyanobacterial production of taste-and-odor compounds is of particular concern to drinking-water suppliers. Taste-and-odor episodes in Cheney Reservoir during the early 1990s prompted water-quality studies in both the reservoir and watershed with a goal towards improving water-quality.

The U.S. Geological Survey began cooperative studies of the Cheney Reservoir watershed with the city of Wichita in 1996. Initial studies determined the chemical loading into and out of Cheney Reservoir, changes in reservoir sediment quality over time, and chemical loading from various sub-basins within the watershed. Phosphorus and sediment were identified as the major contaminants in Cheney Reservoir, although salinity, metals, selenium and pathogen indicator bacterial (fecal coliform) also were of concern. In addition, reservoir sediment studies documented an increasing trend in phosphorus concentrations over time.

More recent studies (2000-2006) have focused on real-time estimation of water-quality constituent concentrations and transport from the watershed and the description of in-reservoir conditions that may result in the production of algal blooms and taste-and-odor compounds. Models using variables measured by real-time water-quality monitors successfully were developed to provide hourly estimates of the concentrations nutrient, sediment, and taste-and-odor compounds. Ongoing studies at Cheney Reservoir will refine the relations between reservoir and inflow conditions and taste-and-odor occurrences. The city of Wichita plans to use these models, along with other variables measured in real time, to aid in the management of the resource and decrease water-treatment costs.

External Links

For Additional Information

Please contact:

Ariele Kramer
1217 Biltmore Dr., Lawrence, KS 66049
Tel: (785)832-3526, Fax: (785)832-3500
E-mail: akramer@usgs.gov

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Page Last Modified: Wed 06 October 2010