Kansas Partnership receives funding to address harmful algae blooms in Milford Lake

The Kansas Water Office was recently awarded $2.88 million through the Natural Resources Conservation Service Regional Conservation Partnership Program to improve water quality conditions within the Milford Lake Watershed. Runoff from precipitation events is a source of nutrient loading contributing to aquatic conditions that promote formation of harmful algal blooms within Milford Lake. Runoff also erodes soil that ends up in waterways and is transported downstream, eventually contributing to the sedimentation of the lake.

“We are elated the Kansas Water Office Milford Lake project was selected for funding and appreciate the support of the 28 contributing partners,” said Gov. Jeff Colyer. “As this lake serves as a water source to many Kansas communities, this project exemplifies the potential for a comprehensive watershed approach and presents a tremendous opportunity to impact nutrient loading within the lake.”

Milford Lake supplies water to several utilities and cities who service nearly one million Kansans, more than one-third of the state’s population. The frequency of HABs over the years within the lake have created a heightened concern among lake stakeholders that blooms will adversely impact public water supplies and their ability to provide safe, potable water.

This project serves as one of the largest efforts undertaken within the Milford Lake Watershed to bring together partners to work with NRCS on implementation of conservation practices. The KWO is the lead partner with 28 other entities contributing to the project.

“The Kansas Natural Resources Conservation Service is delighted to be working with the Kansas Water Office to improve water quality in the Milford Lake Watershed. NRCS has dedicated conservationists that are ready to provide technical assistance and conservation planning to help producers identify conservation practices to address resource concerns in the watershed,” said Sheldon Hightower, Kansas NRCS acting state conservationist. “We have a great relationship with the Kansas Water Office and I appreciate their leadership in this project.”

The project will implement livestock and cropland-related conservation practices within the Milford Lake Watershed to decrease nutrient runoff and sediment.

“HABs have been a growing issue for our state dating back to at least 2010. In 2011, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment first listed Milford Lake as having a significantly large confirmed harmful blue-green algae bloom,” said Tracy Streeter, KWO director. “Unfortunately HABs have been detected within Milford Lake every year since 2011 and we are pleased to receive this grant to help address this priority in our state.”

The partnership team consists of state agencies, public water suppliers, farm organizations, local units of government, university and state researchers, county conservation districts, agricultural groups, private businesses and non-profit organizations.

This is not only an issue in Kansas but a growing nationwide problem. The American Water Works Association is finding ways to help public water suppliers address this issue across the country.

“In recent years, Kansas has been a leader in bringing together all stakeholders to understand and find solutions for the unique challenges facing the state’s water supply,” said Mike Armstrong, Kansas Water Authority member and General Manager of WaterOne, an AWWA public water utility member serving 425,000 customers in the Johnson County area. “In eastern Kansas where we have an ample supply of source water, the challenge is protecting water quality. WaterOne is eager to work closely with agricultural interests as partners in addressing upstream factors that affect downstream quality.”

The project will also provide improvements such as improving fish and wildlife habitat, increasing soil health, testing of innovative phosphorus reduction technology and helping ensure future agricultural productivity.

The following are the 28 partners contributing to the success of the project: Acorns Resort; City of Lawrence; City of Olathe; City of Topeka; City of Wakefield; Clay County; Clay County Economic Development Group; EcoPractices (Sustainability Partners); Flagstop Resort & RV Park; Friends of the Kaw; WaterOne of Johnson County; Kansas Alliance for Wetlands and Streams; Kansas Biological Survey; Kansas Corn Growers Association; Kansas Department of Agriculture – Division of Conservation; Kansas Department of Health and Environment; Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism; Kansas Farm Bureau; Kansas Forest Service; Kansas Soybean Commission; Kansas Water Office; National Sorghum Producers; Riley County Conservation District; Sustainable Environmental Consultants; The Nature Conservancy; Thunderbird Marina & RV Resort; and Westar Energy.

For more information about the project visit www.kwo.ks.gov.