& Education Programs
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.