KCARE Research Today

Author: Melissa Harvey

KWRI focuses on Kansas water issues

The Kansas Water Resources Institute (KWRI) develops and supports research on high-priority water resource problems as defined by the Kansas state water plan. KWRI is designed to facilitate effective communication between water resources professionals and to foster the dissemination and application of research results. Continue reading “KWRI focuses on Kansas water issues”

Monitoring the Effectiveness of Streambank Stabilization Projects in Northeast Kansas

Streambank stabilization projects represent a key element in the plan to reduce sediment in Kansas waterways and reservoirs. In this project, investigators worked to quantify the environmental benefits of government-sponsored streambank stabilization and restoration projects in northeastern Kansas, with a special focus on sites within the Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas and Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Indian Reservations. Continue reading “Monitoring the Effectiveness of Streambank Stabilization Projects in Northeast Kansas”

Contaminant barriers or pathways? Hydraulic and chemical methods to improve characterization of shallow aquitards

KGS instrumentation measuring aquitard characteristics

Shallow aquifers are heavily used for drinking water and irrigation. These aquifers are often part of multi-layered systems where confining layers, also known as aquitards, can “isolate” an aquifer from poorer quality waters that can lie either above or below them. The aquitard’s capability to isolate is estimated using the vertical component of hydraulic conductivity (K). Accurate estimates of vertical K are needed when it comes to protecting groundwater used for human supply.

KGS instrumentation measuring aquitard characteristics
The field instrumentation of aquitard characterization at a Kansas Geological Survey field site in the Kansas River valley.

This project investigated different methods, both hydraulic and chemical, to estimate the vertical K of an aquitard in the field. The key questions commonly faced by practicing hydrogeologists are what method is the most appropriate for a particular application, and how much uncertainty is associated with the method selected. To answer these questions, the research team tested two common approaches for aquitard K characterization at a Kansas Geological Survey field site. The first was a chemical method based on porewater concentrations at different depth intervals; the second was a hydraulic method based on the monitored pressure at different depth intervals in response to well constructions and water level fluctuations in the underlying aquifers. Continue reading “Contaminant barriers or pathways? Hydraulic and chemical methods to improve characterization of shallow aquitards”

Quantifying Ephemeral Gully Erosion and Evaluating Mitigation Strategies with Field Monitoring and Computer Modeling

Soil erosion causes severe soil degradation and significantly contributes to soil loss in agricultural fields, with some producers losing substantial amounts of arable land each season.

Student uses backpack camera to photograph field
Experimental cameras were used to complete measurements of ephemeral gully erosion.

To combat this soil loss, it is important to understand the mechanisms related to ephemeral gully formation and location, as well as the geomorphological properties related to storm characteristics. This three-year project works focused on these goals, as well the quantification of soil loss in Kansas resulting from ephemeral gully erosion. Continue reading “Quantifying Ephemeral Gully Erosion and Evaluating Mitigation Strategies with Field Monitoring and Computer Modeling”

Assessing the impact of constructed wetlands on nitrogen transformation and release from tile outlet terraces (TOTs) in Kansas

This project focused on the influence of tile outlet terrace (TOT) croplands on nitrogen and sediment fluxes. Specifically, researchers concentrated on three TOT fields, where the tiles drained to constructed wetlands.

In this course of the research, investigators measured water fluxes and water chemistry into and out of the wetlands during wet weather periods. Rainfall, water velocity and water levels were measured continuously. Automated samplers assessed water chemistry during storm events, and grab samples were collected weekly/biweekly from within the wetlands in order to understand wetland water chemistry variability. During the final year of the project, researchers continued collecting water samples and soil water in fields using lysimeters. They also completed a bulk chemical analysis of soil. These data were used together to separate storm hydrographs to event and pre-event water, to determine the sources and interactions of pre-event water and to develop a conceptual model of nitrogen transformation and flux for TOT systems.

Project Leaders:

Pamela L. Sullivan, Department of Geography and Atmospheric Science, University of Kansas

Edward Peltier, Civil and Environmental and Architectural Engineering, University of Kansas

Governor’s Conference on the Future of Water in Kansas

The fifth statewide “Governor’s Conference on the Future of Water in Kansas” was held on November 8-9, 2017 in Manhattan, Kansas. The conference was highly successful with 691 people registered and attending. Attending the conference was the Governor of Kansas, Sam Brownback, and several state and national senators and representatives. The governor fully supports this conference and has expressed his concern about the issue of preserving and protecting the future viability of water in Kansas. The conference also included 35 volunteer scientific and four invited presentations, which were presented in plenary and concurrent sessions. Conference participants also had opportunities to attend four panel discussions. In the scientific poster session, there were eight faculty/staff/professional scientific posters and 33 student posters presented. A student poster award program (for both graduate and undergraduate posters) was conducted to encourage student participation.

From the Director

Dan Devlin

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

We are deep into the harvest season and winter is approaching. The changing season signals a busy time for KCARE: we are launching number of new projects, submitting reports, and there are many upcoming meetings and conferences. To keep yourself up-to-date, I invite you to follow KCARE’s new Twitter page, @KStateKCARE. Please send us your news and events so we can get your information out to our followers!

I want to particularly remind everyone about two upcoming events. The Governor’s Water Conference will be held in Manhattan on November 8-9. This years’ program looks outstanding, and I suggest registering as soon as possible to avoid disappointment. Prior to the Governor’s Conference, on November 6-7, K-State will host a project meeting NIFA Ogallala Water CAP project meeting. Irrigation and water research and extension faculty from K-State and eight other universities will take part in the discussion about irrigation and water research. I am looking forward to seeing our results from 2017 and making plans for next year’s research and extension activities.

Continue reading “From the Director”

2017 Governor’s Conference on the Future of Water in Kansas

The sixth annual Governor’s Conference on the Future of Water in Kansas will be held November 8-9 at the Hilton Garden Inn and Conference Center in Manhattan, Kansas.  The conference brings together scientists, water managers, state and federal officials and legislators, city and county administrators, environmental organizations, irrigators and citizens who share an interest in Kansas water resources.

Events for the conference include special speakers, a photo contest and poster session. The Water Legacy and Be the Vision award recipients also will be presented. Breakout sessions will cover a variety of subjects: in addition to a session about emergency response efforts in Kansas, panelists from other states will discuss how agricultural and municipal stakeholders partner to benefit and improve water supply. Other sessions will feature federal and state leaders’ updates on the Farm Bill, and Israeli officials will provide updates in another breakout session on their successes and challenges going from drought to surplus water supply.

Keynote speakers on day one include Jim Guilliford, EPA Region 7 Administrator, and Michael Teague, Oklahoma Secretary of Energy and the Environment.

Sponsors for the event include over 40 different businesses, associations, and agencies from across Kansas. Registration has sold out for day two of the conference, but interested attendees can contact the Kansas Water Office to be placed on a waiting list. Registration for day one is still open.

KCARE has a new look

Kansas State University established KCARE in order to coordinate and enhance the research, extension, and teaching activities that focus on environmental issues relating to agriculture. KCARE supports research spanning multiple departments and disciplines: soil science, smoke management, cropping systems, water quality and irrigation, fertilizer research, and climate studies.new KCARE logo

Although the core mission for us remains the same, our look is starting to change. As a part of this, we are happy to share with you the new KCARE logo. This new design encompasses the connection between agriculture and the environment which is at the heart of KCARE. Any KCARE affiliates are invited to use this logo: as a link to the KCARE site on your personal or departmental webpages, on brochures or handouts including KCARE-supported research, or anywhere else you want to highlight our partnership.

If you would like to use the KCARE logo, please contact Melissa Harvey (mharvey@ksu.edu) for more information.

We have also launched a new KCARE Twitter account. Please follow us at @KStateKCARE to learn about current projects, events, or other news. Of course, we welcome your input: if there’s something you think we need to highlight, either on our website or on our Twitter account, don’t be shy! Let us know!

It is our privilege and pleasure to work with research and extension faculty, students, and members of our community to explore new ways to create quality solutions for the environmental issues our state faces now and into the future. Through our partnerships, we are helping Kansas agriculture remain successful and sustainable.

Making every drop count

Fort Riley looms large to the southwest of Manhattan, spreading over 100,000 acres and serving more than 40,000 active duty service members, their families, and other civilian employees. The base is surrounded by water: it’s sandwiched between two reservoirs – Milford and Tuttle Creek – and located along both the Republican and Kansas Rivers.

Because of this, Fort Riley was selected in 2011 to participate in the “Net Zero Initiative” as one of six Net Zero Water Pilot instillations tasked to maintain the quality and quantity of groundwater and surface water resources in the area. For K-State professor Stacy Hutchinson, this was an opportunity to evaluate the limitations and advantages of an advanced oxidation water treatment process, and assess the applications of this system using water samples from Fort Riley.

Two scientists examine samples in a lab
K-State student Shannon Mudd (left) and Professor Stacy Hutchinson examine E. coli samples

The advanced oxidation process – or AOP – is a system that uses UV irradiation and ozone to treat biologically contaminated water. The process isn’t new, but the design is unique: Hutchinson and her team wanted to make the system mobile to assist with troop security in forward deployment areas. Those troops cannot always rely on supply convoys, and often cannot transport caustic chemicals for water decontamination or carry heavy supplies of potable water. Instead, they could use the mobile AOP on water from local sources or wells, even ones contaminated with a biological agent.

Continue reading “Making every drop count”