What Can We Do To Help?

Modifications that have been made to the Kansas River for flood control, water diversion for industry and municipalities, bank stabilization, and sand and gravel dredging have all degraded the physical habitat of the channel. Dams have reduced the amount of coarse sediment (sand) entering the channel, while mussels, fish eggs and bottom dwelling invertebrates are being smothered by fine organic sediment from agricultural and urban run-off. Channelization and levees restrict the water to a narrow channel, and lack of coarse sediment input degrades the channel, turning a naturally slow moving, wide, shallow, braided river into a deep and swift conduit for reservoir releases. 

Groundwater levels in Western Kansas are being lowered by pumping to supply irrigation water for agriculture, resulting in "manmade droughts" in parts of the Kaw River system.

Water weirs, dams, and other structures limit or completely block the movement of fish up and down the river, preventing them from escaping adverse conditions and repopulating areas that have experienced population declines.

All of this paints a rather bleak picture for our native fish, mussels, frogs, turtles and other denizens of the Kaw's sandbars and river channels. But there is hope. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has been working for the past several years to survey fish, mussels and other aquatic organisms around the state. Data from these stream surveys provided a basis for the reviews used in this presentation on the current status of native fish and mussels in Kansas; these data will also provide a basis for future action by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks to conserve species with declining populations and ranges. Working with the EPA, KDHE  is developing guidelines for reducing pollutants which harm aquatic organisms. The Watershed Restoration And Protection Strategy (WRAPS) program is actively working to reduce erosion and reduce the amount of fine organic sediment choking our streams. And municipalities are upgrading wastewater treatment plants and developing stormwater run-off reduction plans. With so much to do it will take all of us to help improve the conditions in the Kaw and its tributaries. We invite you to join the Friends of the Kaw, volunteer, report pollution and investigate our website to find ways that you can help us to preserve our rich and amazing river ecosystem. Citizen action is central, the river belongs to all of us. (Photo Credit: Craig Thompson)