MA Thesis‎ > ‎

Upper Wakarusa WRAPS Q Method

A watershed is an area of land that drains storm water or snow runoff into a common point. In Kansas for example, the drainage point for the Upper Wakarusa watershed for example, is Clinton Lake Reservoir. This drainage point therefore collects all residues that travel through small streams and rivers. Often these water bodies surround agricultural plots therefore collecting residues of agricultural activities. These residues include nutrient rich agricultural chemicals from pesticides, fertilizers, or herbicides; manure from cattle; and sediment being picked up by runoff. Eventually the compilation of all these residues has deep effects on the downstream drainage point. This becomes problematic when the drainage point, in this case Clinton Lake Reservoir, is used as a drinking water source for a significant number of residents in addition to also being used for recreational purposes, including swimming and fishing.

Residents of areas surrounding Clinton Lake Reservoir have experienced discomfort in their drinking water due to significant nutrient and sediment loading from agricultural practices in the watershed. Nutrients found in agricultural chemicals act as a catalyst for overgrowth of aquatic organisms such as blue green algae. The decay of massive amounts of this alga has produced major fish kills in the reservoir leading to tremendous financial losses from loss of recreational activities. Most worrisome is the chemical residue geosmin, which is left on the drinking water of watershed residents. Geosmin is not dangerous, however, it leaves a musty or earthy taste and smell which water treatment plants have found challenging to abolish. Excess sediment coming into the reservoir due to increasing erosion in agricultural land has authorities worried about the future need to dredge the reservoir. Dredging this water body has not only substantial financial implications, but it is also thought to disturb dangerous chemicals that have settled at the bottom of the reservoir. Environmental authorities have attempted to address these problems in a number of ways, including voluntary incentive programs.

Stakeholder leadership teams (SLT) have used voluntary incentive programs to encourage farmers to implement best management practices (BMPs). BMP adoption reduces the input of agricultural pollutants into streams and their traveling to a drainage point, i.e. in the Upper Wakarusa watershed the drainage point is Clinton Lake Reservoir. Many farmers have already participated in voluntary incentive programs and those left, are persistently hesitant farmers, often significant non-point polluters. Increasing participation of these farmers requires new ways of communication.

It is critical to understand hesitant farmer’s perceptions about BMPs to improve communication. Knowing the SLT’s perceptions about BMPs that better improve water quality in Clinton Lake, might shine light on the perceptions of other watershed stakeholders about this topic. SLT’s perceptions should be based on their personal experiences with BMPs. As the SLT represents the various watershed stakeholder groups, the information collected may represent the perceptions of other watershed stakeholders, including hesitant farmers.

Our results provided three groups sharing perceptions about best ways to use BMPs when managing their watershed to improve water quality: hands-on rural residents, detail oriented urban and suburban residents, and pro-education and -data collection government official. This study provided defining BMPs per group, and most importantly, BMPs that all groups agree and disagree help water quality. This information serves as a tool for the SLT to pave a pathway between them and hesitant farmers. This approach could potentially aid policy makers statewide in finding ways for problem resolution through commonalities in perceptions of those parties involved.