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Information & Education Programs

Since the beginning of this project in the early 1990's, farmers have responded enthusiastically to the opportunities presented to them. Water quality is sometimes a matter of contention within agricultural circles, but this project has seen active participation from a very large group of people.

In addition to attractive financial incentives, the Watershed board promotes voluntary participation through highly effective farmer-to-farmer meetings. Throughout the winter months, board members invite neighboring farmers to meet with them in coffee shops, farm homes, and machine sheds. Short presentations on the Water Quality Project are followed by informal question and answer sessions. Considering that the watershed includes 633,449 acres across five counties, this method has required dedication on the part of these farmer board members.

Demonstration Projects

Watershed board members and project staff have invited farmers to visit local farms where newer management practices are demonstrated and discussed. A number of demonstration projects offer an opportunity to see innovative management practices in action. These include the development of CRP grass for grazing, filter strips to digest feedlot runoff, solar and wind energy to provide alternative livestock watering points, and variable rate application of lime.

Practices include a wide variety of projects ranging from the creation of management intensive grazing systems to very traditional conservation methods such as field terraces and grassed waterways. Incentive payments for improved management practices have been funded through programs such as the USDA Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). A large percentage of the funds allocated to this watershed from EQIP have been used for nutrient management incentives. Farmers agree to fertilize no more than a recommended level according to the results of soil tests. They must keep records of the soil test results and the fertilizer applied.

Due to the high percentage of Conservation Reserve Program acres in the watershed, these native grass plantings have a powerful filtering effect on the river. In order to encourage farmers to preserve the grass after the federal reserve contracts have expired, the Watershed board funded several demonstrations of fencing that would facilitate grazing instead of crop farming. Later, with financial support from Wichita, the board was able to begin offering 50% cost share on additional fencing projects for CRP grass.

Signs

Partnerships with other organizations have increased the impact of watershed efforts. The first EPA grant supporting the watershed project included funds for the Kansas Rural Center. This private, non-profit organization established numerous demonstration projects of sustainable farming practices in and near the watershed. These demonstrations emphasized lower-cost, management-based practices. Resource conserving crop rotations, filter strips, rotational grazing systems, and extended grazing systems were featured.

The public relations coordinator has worked extensively with small dairy farmers along Red Rock Creek to improve manure management. As producers began installing waste management systems, they needed to find good methods for pumping and using water from the holding pits that collect runoff from the barn lots. The coordinator worked with these farmers to organize several demonstrations. One showed the use of this water to irrigate crops.

The coordinator continues to work closely with these small producers to develop management techniques that will allow careful use of their manure resources. The watershed staff provides assistance collecting soil and manure samples for analysis that will guide waste application. Throughout the process, education is a priority so that producers will consider water quality concerns within their day-to-day decision making.

Large metal signs are placed at the site of most practices after implementation. These attractive green and white signs indicate the participating farmer, the specific farming practice used, and contact information for the project. Signs have also been installed on paved roads at stream crossings with the wording "Cheney Lake Water Quality Area" to create an awareness of the watershed within the community.

Tours

Watershed bus trips have been another important outreach tool. The participants visit a variety of farms that have adopted new water protection practices, tour the pumping facilities at Cheney dam, eat lunch courtesy of the city of Wichita, and tour city water treatment facilities. Some of the tours included a visit to the Arkansas River Recharge Project to give watershed residents an understanding of some of Wichita's other water supply projects. One bus trip was targeted to key urban residents from Wichita.

Two videos have been produced to help promote the watershed project. One was created in cooperation with Wichita's marketing department and covered the earliest phases of the project. The CMC and a professional video service created a later video, entitled "A Legacy of Water". It has been used extensively to introduce the project to farmers, urban residents, and people interested in establishing similar projects across the state of Kansas and across the nation.










Cheney Lake Watershed, Inc.
18 East 7th Street - South Hutchinson, Kansas 67505
Phone: 620-669-8161 ext. 4
Fax: 620-669-5496

Cheney Lake Watershed, Inc. does not accept unsolicited advertisements at this fax number.