Kansas Healthy Watersheds Project

Kansas Healthy Watersheds Project

Kansas WRAPS is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Silver Jackets and the Kansas Hazard Mitigation Team (KHMT) to reduce downstream flooding through improved watershed wide soil health.  The Kansas Healthy Watersheds project builds on the work done by the WRAPS program.  The interagency project is to create a hydrologic modeling tool that will show impacts of land use management or incentives across a watershed that qualify as nonstructural measures that can reduce flood hazards.

The subject of the project is agricultural lands that have started to use best management practices such as no-till farming and inter-seeding of cover crops (see the Watershed Cover Crop Project video). The subsequent soil health improvements had documented water quality benefits, but these soils are also proving to reduce runoff.  The team conducted a sensitivity analysis for the variables that lead to flood peak reductions. These reductions may be achieved if soil health practices were done for a strategical majority of the watershed.  The team believes potential infiltration increases through improved soil health could help offset impacts from increased rainfall intensities from climate change.

The Technical Report can be accessed here, and appendices here.

Brian Rast, USACE Silver Jackets Coordinator for Kansas and Missouri, concluded: “The recent project, ‘Kansas Healthy Watersheds,’ found that watershed wide practices, like regen agriculture, are effective natural and nature based features that reduce downstream flooding, as available in the technical report.” Integrating watershed planning for water quality with watershed planning for flood hazard mitigation can be done, but it will take an interdisciplinary approach.

The team has proposed another project for 2023, Soils Versus Structures, partnering with a Kansas watershed district to conduct a tradeoff analysis of watershed wide structural vs. nonstructural measures.


Description of soil health principles
Image from USACE Silver Jacket Leader Brian Rast’s presentation to KHMT.