Cheney Lake Watershed Project

(Jamie) Welcome to Farm Factor! First Duane Toews and Howard Miller discuss the unique Cheney Lake Watershed Project.
(Duane Toews) Duane Toews joining in once again with AGam in Kansas and a chance to catch up with Howard Miller with the Cheney Lake Watershed. Howard, the Cheney Lake Watershed Project is an interesting group of individuals that have come together to address some serious issues. Can you give us a little background on why we’re at where we are? (Howard Miller) Back in the early ’90s, the city of Wichita started noticing there was taste and odor issues with the water in Cheney Lake. They set out just to find out what the problems were. They discovered that the taste and odor was caused by phosphorus that was loading in the lake and causing blue-green algae blooms. Since then, we’ve also discovered there’s some sediment, a little less than we might have expected at this point, but there’s sediment coming into the lake. What we are doing as a project, we work with the farmers and the ranchers above the lake to control the sediment and the phosphorus or the other nutrient runoff off of their land into Cheney Lake. Right now, we’re a little bit behind schedule than what they would’ve expected for sedimentation. Our taste and odor issues have been few and far between. We’re gaining on it. Like I said, we started in the early ’90s. In 1994 we were officially organized and we’ve been working with farmers and ranchers since 1994. (Duane) It’s interesting from my perspective. Oftentimes when we start thinking about water quality issues and such, typically immediately most people think about regulation. Here is a collaboration. The results therefore are a better outcome for everybody involved, it appears. (Howard) That’s right. The city of Wichita is a really good partner for us in this watershed projects. 60% of the water that’s used in Wichita everyday comes from Cheney Lake. There are about 350,000 of us that live in Wichita that use this water. The city of Wichita not only is interested in improving the water quality, they put their cash where their mouth is. In other words, they’re out here putting dollars out in the watershed. If you get 70% from state or federal costs here, they’ll often kick in the other 30%. If you get 60, they’ll kick in the 40. Often there’s very little cost to the producers in the watershed to do the things that they need to do to control the runoff off of their land. (Duane) It’s an interesting concept that people actually can work together and achieve an outcome that’s positive. On both regards, I’m sure a number of producers were pleased with what they’ve seen with some of the implementation measures as well. (Howard) That’s true. We’re here today at a Soil Health Field Day. One of the reasons we’re interested in soil health is because soil health is one thing that you could do on your farm that will increase your profitability and at the same time hold that soil back on your farm where you can use it and farm, and you also get more infiltration of the water. When you infiltrate water, it comes out as base flow into the stream giving the city of Wichita a much safer supply of water. It’s a win-win. (Duane) All right. Thanks to Howard Miller with the Cheney Lake Watershed Project joining us on AGam in Kansas. Jamie, back to you.
(Jamie) Folks come back after these messages for this week’s Kansas Soybean Update.

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