K-State Team to Study Water Quality in S. Central Kansas

$650,000 award is part of overall $2 million for watershed work.

An interdisciplinary team of Kansas State University engineers, agronomists, sociologists and economists has been awarded $650,000 to continue their work in assessing conservation practices on water quality in south central Kansas.

"This research will help determine the water quality benefits and socio-economic impacts resulting from the implementation of conservation practices in the Cheney Lake Watershed in south central Kansas," says Nathan Nelson, principal investigator on the project.

Water quality monitoring data will be analyzed to determine the effects of current conservation practices, says Nelson, who is a soil scientist with K-State Research and Extension. The results will be compared with water quality improvements predicted by computer models simulating strategic conservation practice implementation.

The project will use field monitoring, computer modeling, producer interviews, and historical data to answer three questions: 1) how do the timing, location, and array of conservation practices affect water quality at the watershed scale; 2) How do social and economic factors affect conservation practice implementation; and 3) What is the optimal placement and suite of conservation practices for the given watershed?

Funds for the project, which will run from October, 2006 through September, 2009, came through a U.S. Department of Agriculture Conservation Effects Assessment Project (USDA/CEAP) grant. The grant is part of a nationwide watershed initiative to evaluate the effects of conservation practices on water quality, as well as economics, sustainability and wildlife habitat, Nelson said.

Other K-State researchers on the project include biological and agricultural engineers Kyle Mankin and Phil Barnes, agricultural economist Michael Langemeier, agronomists Dan Devlin and Bill Hargrove, and sociologist Theresa Selfa.

The project is also supported by Lyle Frees with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and Lisa French with Cheney Lake Watershed Inc., a private, non-profit organization based on a rural/urban partnership.

"The effects of implementing conservation practices on net farm income will assist in determining appropriate financial incentives for encouraging conservation practices," Nelson says.

Once completed, the team will convey the results of the study to local and regional agencies to help them evaluate benefits resulting from past conservation practices, identify optimal conservation practices and placement for additional water quality improvement.

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