Kansas River Time of Travel Study

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The Kansas River provides drinking water for multiple cities in northeastern Kansas and is used for recreational purposes. Thus, improving the scientific knowledge of streamflow velocities and traveltimes will greatly aid in water-treatment plans and response to critical events and threats to water supplies. Dye-tracer studies are usually done to enhance knowledge of transport characteristics, which include streamflow velocities, traveltimes, and dispersion rates, within a river system. To achieve this in the Kansas River, rhodamine water-tracing dye is planned to be poured into the Kansas River during three different flow ranges at three locations: Manhattan, Topeka, and Eudora. The primary purpose of doing a dye-tracer study in the Kansas River is to calibrate a time-of-travel model used for estimating streamflow velocities and traveltimes, which can be used by the public as well as drinking water suppliers to protect water resources and public-water supplies.

Map of Kansas River Basin for time of Travel Study

Map of the Kansas River Basin where the Time of Travel Study will take place. The map highlights both dams along the river and dye lcoations.

(Public domain.)

Frequency Asked Questions

 

What:

U.S. Geological Survey and partners will be adding a harmless, temporary bright red fluorescent dye to parts of the Kansas River. Dates will be announced using this website and press releases once established.

 

When:

Beginning the summer of 2020

 

Why:

The primary purpose of performing a dye-tracer study on the Kansas River is to calibrate a time-of-travel model used for estimating streamflow velocities and travel times, which can be used by the public as well as drinking water-suppliers to protect water resources and public-water supplies. The study is an exciting opportunity to better understand the behavior of the Kansas River.

“Recent events with spills above intakes in rivers have pointed out the need for travel time data to monitor and respond appropriately,” said Tom Stiles, Bureau of Water Director at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. “With so many people dependent upon surface water supplies in Kansas, understanding how those rivers move is critical to proper water management.”

 

Where & How:

The harmless, non-toxic red dye—known as Rhodamine Water Tracer (RWT)—will be added into the Kansas River during low, medium and high-flow conditions at Manhattan, Topeka, and Eudora. The red-hued dye may be visible to the public as it moves downstream and will be measured and monitored using instruments in the stream, as well as laboratory analysis.

The study is being done in cooperation with the Kansas Water Office, Kansas Department of Health and Environment, The Nature Conservancy, City of Manhattan, City of Topeka, City of Olathe, WaterOne, and the U.S. Geological Survey have cooperated on this study to improve our understanding of streamflow velocities and travel times in the Kansas River.

 

Photos below are from: McCarthy, P.M., 2009, Travel times, streamflow velocities, and dispersion rates in the Yellowstone River, Montana: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2009-5261, 25 p. https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20095261

dye in Yellowstone River

McCarthy, P.M., 2009, Travel times, streamflow velocities, and dispersion rates in the Yellowstone River, Montana: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2009-5261, 25 p. https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20095261

(Public domain.)

 

rhodamine-WT dye in Yellowstone River

Travel times, streamflow velocities, and dispersion rates in the Yellowstone River, Montana: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2009-5261, 25 p. https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20095261

(Public domain.)

 

 

 

Frequently Asked Questions:

  1. Is this dye toxic? Will it stain?
    • The Rhodamine WT (RWT) dye in the quantities used in this study is harmless and non-toxic to humans, plants, and other animals. It is unlikely that the RWT will stain, unless you are near the dye locations, but if it does stain it will deteriorate in sunlight or once diluted with more water.
    • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency policy for the use of RWT dye states the maximum concentration at any water intake is not to exceed 10 micrograms per liter (Hubbard, 1982; and Wilson, 1986). The planned dye locations along the river are sufficiently upstream of surface water intakes on the Kansas River that resulting concentrations will remain well below that concentration once reaching the intakes.
  2. Will this study help with the toxic algae?
    • This study was inspired by the concerns in Kansas about transport of toxins from harmful algal blooms (HABs) down the Kansas River. This study will provide more information on travel times along the Kansas River regardless of the cause of potential contamination, e.g., spills, sewer bypasses, runoff from tributaries.
  3. Have dye tracer studies been done before?
    • Yes. Dye tracer studies are a common scientific method for studying the behavior of rivers. This method is frequently used to study bodies of water throughout the country. Here are a few citations of where these have been done:
      • Jobson, H.E., 1999, Contaminants in rivers and streams—Prediction of travel time and longitudinal dispersion: Geneva, Switzerland, World Meteorological Organization Operational Hydrology Report 45, 49 p.
      • Kilpatrick, F.A., and Wilson, J.F., Jr., 1989, Measurement of time of travel in streams by dye tracing: U.S. Geological Survey Techniques of Water-Resources Investigations, book 3, chap. A9, 27 p.
      • McCarthy, P.M., 2009, Travel times, streamflow velocities, and dispersion rates in the Yellowstone River, Montana: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2009–5261, 25 p., accessed April 15, 2019 date at https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20095261.
      • Whiteman, A., 2012, Travel times, streamflow velocities, and dispersion rates in the Missouri River upstream from Canyon Ferry Lake, Montana: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2012–5044. Revised May, 20 p., accessed April 15, 2019 date at https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20125044.
  4. Does this affect my drinking water?
    • No, the temporary dye used in this study is harmless and non-toxic to humans, plants, and animals. Water treatment facilities are able to completely remove any remaining trace of the dye from drinking water. Feel free to reach out to your local water provider if you have any concerns.
Preliminary Data

Table 1.

Planned injection amounts of rhodamine water-tracing dye (at 20-percent stock solution) at each dye location and the predicted rhodamine water-tracing dye concentrations per downstream monitoring location for a streamflow near 2,000 cubic feet per second, Kansas River, northeastern Kansas.

[RWT, rhodamine water-tracing]

RWT dye injection point and amount Downstream monitoring location Predicted peak RWT dye concentration, in micrograms per liter Time to leading edge of RWT plume, in hours Time to peak of RWT plume, in hours Time to RWT trailing edge, in hours
Manhattan, Kansas, 6.5 liters Wamego, Kansas 14.32 13.2 14.9 19.3
  Belvue, Kansas 8.80 20.9 23.5 29.8
  Rossville, Kansas 6.21 30.4 34.1 42.2
  Topeka, Kansas—Highway 75 4.91 38.8 43.6 53.3
  Topeka, Kansas—Water plant 4.88 39.1 44.0 53.6
  Topeka, Kansas—K–4 Highway 4.27 43.5 48.9 59.3
  Lecompton, Kansas 3.32 53.9 60.6 73.5
Topeka, Kansas, 3.5 liters Lecompton, Kansas 7.00 10.4 11.7 15.4
  Lawrence, Kansas—Bowersock Dam 4.27 18.3 20.6 26.3
  De Soto, Kansas 2.62 31.7 35.6 44.2
Eudora, Kansas, 4 liters De Soto, Kansas 9.73 7.7 8.6 11.5
  Lake Quivira—Water plant 4.77 17.9 20.1 25.6

 

Table 2. Planned injection amounts of rhodamine water-tracing dye (at 20-percent stock solution) at each dye location and the predicted rhodamine water-tracing dye concentrations per downstream monitoring location for a streamflow near 5,000 cubic feet per second, Kansas River, northeastern Kansas. [RWT, rhodamine water-tracing]
RWT dye injection point and amount Downstream monitoring location Predicted peak RWT dye concentration, in micrograms per liter Time to leading edge of RWT plume, in hours Time to peak of RWT plume, in hours Time to RWT trailing edge, in hours
Manhattan, Kansas, 9 liters Wamego, Kansas 11.9 7.7 8.7 11.1
  Belvue, Kansas 7.90 12.4 14.0 17.3
  Rossville, Kansas 5.93 18.3 20.6 24.9
  Topeka, Kansas—Highway 75 4.96 23.8 26.7 31.8
  Topeka, Kansas—Water plant 4.93 24.0 27.0 32.1
  Topeka, Kansas—K–4 Highway 4.55 26.9 30.2 35.8
  Lecompton, Kansas 3.65 34.0 38.2 45.1
Topeka, Kansas, 5.5 liters Lecompton, Kansas 7.59 7.1 7.9 10.3
  Lawrence, Kansas—Bowersock Dam 4.56 12.5 14.1 17.5
  De Soto, Kansas 3.01 21.6 24.3 29.4
Eudora, Kansas, 5.5 liters De Soto, Kansas 9.10 5.2 5.9 7.8
  Lake Quivira—Water plant 4.75 12.4 13.9 17.4

 

Table 3. Planned injection amounts of rhodamine water-tracing dye (at 20-percent stock solution) at each dye location and the predicted rhodamine water-tracing dye concentrations per downstream monitoring location for a streamflow near 10,000 cubic feet per second, Kansas River, northeastern Kansas. [RWT, rhodamine water-tracing]
RWT dye injection point and amount Downstream monitoring location Predicted peak RWT dye concentration, in micrograms per liter Time to leading edge of RWT plume, in hours Time to peak of RWT plume, in hours Time to RWT trailing edge, in hours
Manhattan, Kansas, 9 liters Wamego, Kansas 11.76 5.7 6.5 8.2
  Belvue, Kansas 7.96 9.2 10.4 12.8
  Rossville, Kansas 5.95 13.7 15.4 18.4
  Topeka, Kansas—Highway 75 4.93 17.7 19.9 23.5
  Topeka, Kansas—Water plant 4.90 17.9 20.1 23.6
  Topeka, Kansas—K–4 Highway 4.57 20.0 22.5 26.3
  Lecompton, Kansas 3.66 25.2 28.3 32.9
Topeka, Kansas, 5.5 liters Lecompton, Kansas 6.92 5.1 5.8 7.5
  Lawrence, Kansas—Bowersock Dam 4.54 9.2 10.3 12.8
  De Soto, Kansas 3.02 16.1 18.1 21.7
Eudora, Kansas, 5.5 liters De Soto, Kansas 9.16 4.0 4.5 6.0
  Lake Quivira—Water plant 4.81 9.4 10.6 13.2

Photos below are from personnel actively working on this study:

Rhomdamine-WT dye in plastic

USGS personnel testing Rhomdamine-WT dye in a large plastic tub of river water.

(Credit: Chantelle Davis, USGS. Public domain.)