Western Kansas

The strategy for water quality standards in Kansas has a new name, says Monte Hampton, Ford County Extension agriculture agent.

It is called Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs). Farmer-rancher producers and other users, along with local and state government officials, face the latest environmental challenge by taking action to meet TMDL requirements.

First of all, what is TMDL? The term is used in the Federal Clean Water Act and has a two fold meaning. TMDL is the total amount of a pollutant that a water body may receive, in a specified time period from all contributing sources, without violating water quality standards. There are many water contaminants addressed by TMDLs. The most abundant contaminants are fecal coliform bacteria, sediment, nutrients and pesticides, Hampton says.

Second, TMDL refers to a plan or strategy to return a water body to compliance with water quality standards. The main purpose of the TMDL program is to protect public health and ensure healthy watersheds. A watershed or drainage basin is the area of land from which surface runoff drains into a stream, lake or other body of water. Healthy watersheds are vital for a healthy environment and economy, he says.

Why is Kansas developing this new strategy? The TMDL requirement always has been a part of the 1972 Clean Water Act. However, development and implementation were never pursued, because the national focus was on regulating "end of pipe" point source polluters. Recent litigation against the Environmental Protection Agency has resulted in a court settlement regarding TMDL development and performance of the subsequent implementation strategy. Kansas, having primacy regarding implementation of the Clean Water Act within the state and having intervened in the litigation, is charged with establishing TMDLs.

What does this mean for Ford County? Farmers-rancher producers within high priority TMDL areas of the county will be encouraged to implement pollution control practices that reduce non-point source pollution, Hampton says. Non-point source pollution comes from diffuse sources, such as agricultural runoff, and will receive the most focus in TMDL implementation. Many voluntary, incentive-based state and federal programs that provide funding for pollution control practice implementation are available through the Ford County Natural Resource and Conservation Service at 316-227-3731.

Also, the Ford County Extension staff has publications pertaining to "The Best Management Practices for Nitrogen and Phosphorous" available upon request.

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