The North Fork of the Ninnescah River flows east across south central Kansas. In the mid-1960s, Cheney Reservoir was constructed at the lower end of the river to supply water to the City of Wichita, and to provide recreation and flood control. Today, Wichita draws 70 percent of its water from the reservoir.
The Cheney Lake Watershed (CLW), or more specifically, the north fork of the Ninnescah River, covers 633,000 acres across five Kansas counties. More than 99 percent of the watershed is agricultural, ranging from small dairy farms, crops, and livestock, to large acreages of irrigated rangeland.
In 1992, an algae bloom erupted in Cheney Lake, arousing citizen complaints about the poor taste and odor of their water. Excess phosphorus and sediment were to blame for most of the reservoir’s problems, much of it coming from poor farming practices. The Reno and Sedgwick County Conservation Districts teamed with Wichita to address the problem. This led to the formation of the non-profit organization, CLW Inc., which provides water quality education and facilitates funding for clean water projects.
Examples of Key PartnersCLW Inc., Reno County Conservation District (lead); Pratt, Stafford, and Kingman County Conservation Districts; City of Wichita, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Results and AccomplishmentsConservation districts facilitated an agreement with the City of Wichita, which pledged money to supplement federal cost-share funds available to farmers for conservation practices, and to pay for contract labor. The Reno County Conservation District and CLW Inc. administer the program. NRCS offers technical assistance to help producers plan and implement conservation practices to protect water quality.
Since January 2003, more than $200,000 in state and federal costshare assistance and more than $100,000 in city funds have been invested in conservation practices. Watershed farmers and ranchers matched those funds with more than $75,000. Federal funds came from two sources: $66,626 from USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program and Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, and $25,290 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for conservation demonstrations. State cost-share programs added an additional $119,562.
Watershed farmers, working through a Citizen’s Management Committee, share information with their neighbors in small, informal meetings or in daily interactions, encouraging a high level of voluntary action. More than 2,000 projects have been successfully completed.
The community created a cost-share program to supplement Federal cost-share funds, providing technical and financial assistance to farmers to implement conservation practices on their land.