Kansas River Water Quality

Photo of an area from the KS Watershed StudyPurpose

The Kansas River is a water supply source for the cities of Manhattan, Topeka, Lawrence, Olathe and Water One in Johnson County. The river periodically experiences taste-and-odor episodes that may be caused by cyanobacteria in upstream reservoirs or from run-off events. The objective of the study was to provide an advanced real-time notification system to alert managers along the Kansas River of changing water-quality conditions that may affect treatment processes or cause taste-and-odor or algal toxin events.


During the late summer and early fall of 2011, due to hot and dry conditions, Milford Reservoir experienced a harmful algal bloom (HAB) and several utilities along the Kansas River detected microcystin (a toxin produced by cyanobacteria) in the raw water. Every year since 2011 Milford has experienced some level of HAB. The workgroup developed a plan to work with USGS to collect real-time water quality data along the river; identify the source, fate and transport of taste-and-odor compounds; and develop statistical relationships to identify factors that may cause a change in water quality. The workgroup entered into one year contracts for continuation of data collection and changed the group's name to Kansas River Water Quality which is more inclusive.


KWO partnered with KDHE, USGS, WaterOne, and the cities of Lawrence, Olathe and Topeka to cost-share on the one-year extension of the study which was completed in June of 2017.

Current Updates

Data collection was reduced, however it was maintained at a level so that the existing river model built by USGS could continue to function.


For the one year study, KWO and KDHE committed to $27,000 the public water suppliers provided $54,000 and the USGS obligated $75,000 to continuation of the project. Funding levels on the new five year contracts have not been finalized. 

Project Manager

Kirk Tjelmeland

KWO Office
900 SW Jackson Street
Suite 404
Topeka, Kansas 66612
Phone: 785-296-3185
Fax: 785-296-0878
Toll Free: 1-888-526-9283
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