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Scientific Investigations Report 2007-5108

Publications Warehouse SIR 2007-5108

Assessment of Biological Conditions at Selected Stream Sites in Johnson County, Kansas, and Cass and Jackson Counties, Missouri, 2003 and 2004

Prepared in cooperation with the Johnson County Stormwater Management Program

By Barry C. Poulton, Teresa J. Rasmussen, and Casey J. Lee

SIR 2007-5108


Macroinvertebrate samples were collected at 15 stream sites representing 11 different watersheds in Johnson County, Kansas, in 2003 and 2004 to assess biological conditions in streams and relations to environmental variables. Published data from an additional seven stream sites, one in Johnson County, Kansas, and six others in adjacent Cass and Jackson Counties in Missouri also were evaluated. Multimetric scores, which integrated a combination of measures that describe various aspects of biological community abundance and diversity, were used to evaluate and compare the biological health of streams. In addition, for 15 of 16 Johnson County stream sites, environmental data (streamflow, precipitation, and land use) and water- and sediment-quality data (primarily nutrients, indicator bacteria, and organic wastewater compounds) were used in statistical analyses to evaluate relations between macroinvertebrate metrics and variables that may affect them. The information is useful for defining current conditions, evaluating conditions relative to State aquatic-life support and total maximum daily load requirements, evaluating effects of urbanization, developing effective water-quality management plans, and documenting changes in biological condition and water quality.

Biological conditions in selected Johnson County streams generally reflected a gradient in the degree of human disturbances upstream from the sites, including percentage of urban and agricultural land use as well as the presence, absence, and proximity of wastewater treatment discharges. In this report, the term gradient is used to describe a continuum in the conditions (biological, environmental, or land use) observed at the study sites. Upstream Blue River sites, downstream from primarily agricultural land use, consistently scored among the sites least impacted by human disturbance, and in some metrics these sites scored higher than the State reference site (Captain Creek). The term impact, as used in this report, refers to a negative biological response at a site associated with one or more human-induced sources of disturbance or stress. However, no sites, including the Captain Creek reference site, met Kansas Department of Health and Environment criteria for full support of aquatic life during the 2 years of sample collection. Upstream sites on Kill and Cedar Creeks also consistently scored among the least impacted. Sites less than 3 miles downstream from municipal wastewater treatment facility discharges (two Indian Creek sites) and sites with no wastewater discharge but with substantial impervious surface area within their respective watersheds (Tomahawk, Turkey, and Brush Creeks) consistently scored among the sites most impacted by human disturbance.

More Information

For more information about water resources studies in Johnson County, Kansas by the USGS, contact:
Teresa J. Rasmussen
U.S. Geological Survey
Kansas Water Science Center
4821 Quail Crest Place
Lawrence, KS 66049-3839
Telephone: (785) 832-3576
Fax: (785) 832-3500

For more information about USGS water resources studies in Kansas, visit the USGS Kansas Water Science Center home page:

Report Citation

Poulton, B.C., Rasmussen, T.J., and Lee, C.J., 2007, Assessment of Biological Conditions at Selected Stream Sites in Johnson County, Kansas, and Cass and Jackson Counties, Missouri, 2003 and 2004: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2007-5108, 68 p.

Posted July 2007

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