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 Public Water Supply 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 members of the workgroup see the value of the data collection along the Kansas River and continue to use one-year contracts with the USGS. Collection sites include Wamego, Topeka and De Soto with years of historical data from the Wamego and De Soto gages. More information can be found at the USGS website, Water-Quality Monitoring in the lower Kansas River Basin.


Data collection continues at the three locations with the initial testing of the time of travel study completed with a trial run initiated at De Soto. USGS monitored the dye levels which remained below acceptable levels. The time of travel study will be completed as river flows allow with public and utility notification prior to the beginning of each test. 

Current Updates

Data collection continues at the three locations with the time of travel study to take place when the details have been ironed out by the study partners.  

USGS Website Training 03/05/2021

USGS Web Applications 


For the one-year study, KDHE committed to $50,000, KWO committed to $30,000, the Nature Conservancy and the public water suppliers provided $109,800 and the USGS obligated $170,000 to continuation of the project. Funding levels will be adjusted on an annual basis. 

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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