New manual offers local governments resource for water quality improvement

Kansas local governments interested in protecting or improving water quality have a new resource to aid their efforts.

The Kansas Local Government Water Quality Planning and Management Guide is now available on Kansas State University?s Research and Extension Web site.

Developed by the K-State Research and Extension Office of Local Government, in cooperation with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment?s (KDHE) Bureau of Water, the guide offers a practical approach to water protection planning tailored to the needs of Kansas communities, said John Leatherman, director of the Office of Local Government.

?We set out to create a unique resource for Kansas counties, communities and rural water districts that would be accessible, practical, comprehensive, and squarely targeted to the laws, institutions, needs, ethics and traditions of Kansas,? Leatherman said. ?To our knowledge, there is nothing quite like this anywhere.?

Leatherman said other resources ?seemed too technical, too general or otherwise weak on the practical and political aspects of what can be a controversial planning process.?

The two-part publication includes a ?Decision-Maker?s Guide? that addresses the changing role of local government in water quality protection; creating a community steering committee; developing local goals and objectives for water-quality protection; developing a public education program; and implementing a water-quality protection plan.

A technical resource manual tells how to actually develop the plan by identifying potential pollution sources and managing risks associated with those sources. It also includes a guide to technical and educational resources available to communities and an overview of state and federal agencies with water-related responsibilities.

?We?re very optimistic that any community or organization interested in preserving and improving public water quality will find the guide useful,? Leatherman said.

According to KDHE, Kansas has more than 800 public water supply systems serving a total population of nearly 2.3 million. There are nearly 2,400 individual wells and 100 lake and river diversions supplying these systems.

?While the vast majority of these water supplies are producing and delivering safe drinking water, many are vulnerable to pollutant discharges in the watershed and wellhead capture zone,? said Don Snethen, of KDHE’s Bureau of Water Nonpoint Source Section.

?Effective action for protecting the quality of our water resources occurs when everyone?individuals and organizations, local, state and federal government agencies work in a collaborative manner,? Snethen said. ?The guide is a ?How-to? manual to organize, plan and implement locally driven comprehensive water quality protection plans.?

Copies of the guide have been distributed to public water suppliers and rural water districts throughout the state, as well as county extension offices and county conservation districts.

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