October Follow-Up

Bras Across the Kaw

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

If you had to do a doubletake while crossing the Kansas River bridge near Lawrence last month, you are not alone! In October hundreds of decorated bras were spread out across the bridge to publicize Breast Cancer Awareness Month and promote Health Care Access. To learn more about the bras are hanging above the Kaw click here.

Catfish Fry

Special thanks to Abe & Jake’s and Terrebone Café

The catfish fry at Abe & Jake’s was a fun and beautiful evening on the banks of the Kaw! The food from Terrebone Café was delicious, the music by the Brody Buster Band was hopping, and the art on display was beautiful. Thanks to all who attended, and to all of our wonderful sponsors and attendants.

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Thank you sponsors! Abe & Jake’s, Bowersock Hydropower, Cromwell Solar, Westar Energy, and O’Malley Beverage.

The Perfect Crime

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The Crime

Earlier this month a story broke into national headlines that Junction City had been robbed of a significant amount of water, and was missing 30 percent more water than it was allotted.  Junction City draws its water supply from alluvial wells on the Republican River below Milford reservoir, and just before this river enters the Kaw.

Simultaneously, as hydrologic thievery occurred in Junction City, another “crime” was witnessed 173 miles down stream at Kaw Point. Stormwater pollution, likely caused from an overwhelmed combined sewer system, has been contributing to raw sewage and other pollutants ending up in the Kansas River. A Strawberry Hill Resident that frequents Kaw Point and fishes the Kaw regularly witnessed the pollution. In his account (see last email newsletter) the resident describes the pollution with devastating accuracy, and provides clues to the source of the pollution.

The Victims
Like many municipalities; Junction City depends on the Kansas River system for vital needs. Topeka, Eudora, De Soto, and many other cities and towns also depend on the river as their only source of water. Other key users of Kansas River water include Jeffery’s Energy Center, The Lawrence Energy Center, the Bowersock Mills & Power Company, and the Tecumseh Energy Center. These power plants produce most of the energy for northeast Kansas, and require a minimum flow to cover their needs. Farmers, ranchers, fisherman, river recreationists, wildlife, plants, and many others depend on a steady supply of clean water from the Kaw to survive. In total 40 percent of Kansas depends on the River. All of these groups, and the groups that depend on their success, have depended on dwindling minimum flows over the last year of drought. Water in Kansas is a precious resource, and its being “stolen” and damaged is a serious fact that cannot be ignored.
The Perpetrator

An aging water infrastructure is causing harm to many citizens that depend on the Kansas River. In Junction City much of the missing water turned out not to be stolen by crooks, but by a degrading system of water meters. Over the next two years the city will try to replace more than 9,000 meters for thewater-infrastructure 3 cities 23,000 person population. The process is estimated to cost between one and two million dollars, and will be largely financed through rate increases. Even with the new meters, the water loss rate could still be greater than 15 percent.

In Kansas City, near Kaw Point the Environmental Protection Agency has settled two cases with the cities of Kansas City, Missouri and the Unified Government of Kansas City, Kansas. Both Clean Water Act settlements addressed the thousands of illegal stormwater overflows that have occurred over the past decades caused by out dated sewer systems. Both cities are being forced to update their sewer and stormwater systems, but have nearly two and a half decades to complete this task.
The Punishment

Until we can get these infrastructure issues fixed. Citizens that depend on the Kaw will continue to be “punished” by rate increases, lack of water, and degraded water quality. The problems are numerous, but not overwhelming.

It is important for individuals to realize the importance of fresh water as a drinking supply. Although about 70 percent of the earth’s surface is covered in water, only 2.5 percent is freshwater. Out of that freshwater, more than 68 percent is frozen in glaciers and ice caps. That leaves less than one percent of all water on earth (ground water and surface water) available as fresh water that can be relatively easily converted to drinking water. Continually degrading infrastructure causes water to be wasted at an alarmlingly high rate. Seven billion gallons of fresh water are lost every day in the United States.

Sewage in the Kaw

Raw Sewage Is Ending Up In Our River.
Stormwater pollution, likely caused from an overwhelmed combined sewer system, has been contributing to raw sewage and other pollutants ending up in the Kansas River. The situation was recently brought to Friends of the Kaw’s attention by a Strawberry Hill Resident that frequents Kaw Point and fishes the Kaw regularly. In his account the resident describes the pollution with devastating accuracy.

“When I reached the bank, I saw the usual trash, styrofoam, plastic etc. floating on this ‘slick’. Then I saw a feminine pad, and lots of toilet paper.

This disgusting first hand account is all to familiar. The EPA, the Unified Government of Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri have been working on long term solutions to this problem. Despite this action, the current situation is still far from favorable, and has been a problem for many years.It is important more people know the water they are drinking comes from polluted waterways. It seems ridiculous that approximately 2.5 billion gallons’ of sewage from Kansas City (Karen Dillon, Kansas City Star) ends up in the river each year.
“The water they are drinking, and giving their children to drink, came from a waterway containing used toilet paper, used feminine products, used condoms, and all the other stuff that is flushed down a toilet including 2.5 billion gallons of raw sewage each year.”
All of us should be conscious of how our actions impact the environment, and  how our actions collectively impact our community. Please report pollution in your community, and do what you can to prevent it from impacting our river.
KawPointCT

Best Mangement Practices

What can you do to reduce stormwater runoff?

Johnson County residents have access to many resources to assist them in meeting the requirements of municipal stormwater offices. In this area you will find Best Management practices for Homeowners, Developers, and Agricultural Producers that provide guidance on reducing runoff and improving the quality of the water carried away from your home and yard.

Working together we can protect our homes from flooding and make sure that we always have healthy rivers and clean and abundant drinking water supplies.

Is my home in the Kansas River Watershed?

Below is an interactive Google Map which shows that a large part of Johnson County (outlined in red) falls in the Lower Kansas River Watershed (outlined by the purple line). In fact, the northern border of the county is created by the Kansas River, which separates Johnson County from Wyandotte and Leavenworth Counties (and prevents JoCo from being a perfect square). If you live in the Johnson County portion of the Kansas River watershed your activities have a huge impact on the Kaw. Please help us reduce damage from polluted stormwater by following the suggestions in this section of our site.

 


View Kansas River Watershed in a larger map