1144 S. Seneca
Wichita, KS 67213
Contact Environmental Resources
We all live in a watershed. A watershed is an area of land whose surface
water drains into a river, lake, or stream. Ridges and hills form the boundaries
of the watersheds in Sedgwick County. Mountains form the boundaries of large
watersheds. Watersheds come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from a few acres to
several million acres. Many smaller watersheds are inside a larger watershed.
Across the nation, watersheds have been negatively impacted. Previous
generations failed to consider the effects of discharging industrial chemicals
and raw sewage directly to our rivers and streams. That all changed with the
passage of the Clean Water Act Water in 1972. The Clean Water Act created the
National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). NPDES is a program that
regulates the sources of surface water pollution. Pollutants can enter water
from a variety of pathways. Pollutants come from agricultural, domestic, and
industrial sources. These sources are categorized as point sources or non-point
sources. Point sources are easily identified. They discharge wastewater from the
end of a pipe or a ditch. Municipal wastewater systems and industrial operations
point sources that require a NPDES permit.
The Kansas Department of Health & Environment (KDHE) issues NDPES permits. These
permits specify what treatment may be needed and the acceptable levels of
pollutants that can be discharged into surface waters. Point sources test their
wastewater and report the results to KDHE. Communities with populations greater
than 100,000 are required to have a storm water permit. Wichita, and because of
their proximity to Wichita, Derby, Maize, Mulvane, Park City, Sedgwick County,
and Valley Center have storm water permits. These communities regularly test
their storm water. They also gather samples during storm events.
Non-point source pollution is found in the water that runs off large areas of
land. Commonly called storm water runoff, this water picks up pollutants and
soil from agricultural land, construction sites, streets and highways,
recreational areas, and residential lawns. Non-point source water is untreated
and flows directly to our rivers, lakes, and streams.
Many organizations test surface water in our area. The City of Wichita,
Sedgwick County, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, The Kansas
Department of Wildlife and Parks, and The United States Geological Society
gather samples at various sites throughout Sedgwick County.
Water samples are tested for bacteria, nutrients, metals, and chemicals.
Temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity are also recorded. Fish,
insects and mussels are studied. Their presence, or absence, is an excellent
indicator of water quality. When testing reveals that water quality has
deteriorated, the site is then declared impaired by KDHE and plans to improve
water quality are implemented.
Water tests show that several lakes in Sedgwick County are impaired. These
include: Cheney Reservoir, Lake Afton, Cadillac Lake (Pracht Wetland), Watson
Park Lake, and Horseshoe Lake and Kid’s Lake in Sedgwick County Park. Segments
along the Arkansas River, the Little Arkansas River, and Cowskin Creek are also
impaired. Programs to improve water quality are ongoing in many watersheds
throughout Sedgwick County.
Special effort has been directed to landowners in the Cheney Lake Watershed and
Lake Afton Watershed. Animal waste systems, waterways and terraces, grassland
retention, cover crops, filter strips and conservation tillage are improving
water quality. Surface water monitoring continues in both watersheds to evaluate
these efforts and identify future needs.
The Cheney Lake Watershed is of special importance to the City of Wichita. The
majority of Wichita’s water supply comes from Cheney Lake.
The Mission of
Sedgwick County is to provide quality public services to our community
so everyone can pursue freedom and prosperity in a safe, secure, and
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