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Assessment of water-quality constituents monitored for total maximum daily loads in Johnson County, Kansas, January 2015 through December 2018

August 6, 2021

Stormwater discharges from municipalities are regulated by provisions in the Clean Water Act of 1972 to protect the Nation’s water resources from harmful pollutants. In 2014, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment issued new stormwater discharge permits for 17 municipalities in Johnson County, Kansas, in the northeastern part of the State. The county is largely suburban and has 20 municipalities within 22 watersheds. Municipalities in Johnson County are required to implement stormwater management programs that reduce discharges of pollutants, protect water quality, and satisfy applicable water-quality regulations.

In 2015, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Johnson County Stormwater Management Program, began a 4-year monitoring program designed to meet new stormwater monitoring requirements for some municipalities in Johnson County. Additional data were collected to evaluate the usefulness of continuous water-quality monitoring and different sampling methods in assessing changes in water quality. Twelve of the 22 watersheds in the county were within the sampling network for this project.

Discrete water-quality samples were collected at 25 stream sites and 2 lake sites using passive, grab, and equal-width increment sampling methods. Samples at all sites were analyzed for nutrients, Escherichia coli bacteria, total suspended solids, and suspended-sediment concentration. Ninety-nine percent of storm-event samples and 98 percent of low-flow samples were less than the Kansas Surface Water Quality Standard for nitrate plus nitrite. Eight percent of storm-event samples and 100 percent of low-flow samples were less than the total suspended solids screening value of 50 milligrams per liter. Passive samples generally had higher concentrations when compared to equal-width increment and grab samples, and grab samples and equal-width increment samples generally had similar concentrations.

Continuous water-quality data were collected at one site. Ordinary least squares regression analysis was used to relate continuous (15-minute) water-quality sensor measurements to discretely sampled constituent concentrations at one site.

Numerous factors affect water quality in urban runoff. Urban areas have many possible contaminant sources, including municipal and industrial wastewater discharges, stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces, and failing infrastructure. A better understanding of these factors can inform future monitoring efforts, leading to datasets that are representative of storm runoff and can be used to detect differences between sites and over time.

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