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Bioassessment and Biocriteria Program Status for Kansas: Streams and Wadeable Rivers

State Program Contact

 Kansas Department of Health and Environment Exit

Water Quality Standards

WQS Information
The link to Kansas' WQS that are in effect for Clean Water Act purposes is provided. These are the WQS approved by EPA.
The state of Kansas provided information and links to sections of their administrative code on designated aquatic life use, biological criteria, antidegradation as well as technical support documents and information on its bioassessment and biocriteria programs. These are included for your convenience and may or may not reflect the most recently EPA approved WQS. The following links exit the site Exit

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Designated Aquatic Life Uses
Warm water species designated as Expected, Special or Restricted. Designations only affect size of mixing zone for dischargers, all ALS criteria are the same regardless of designation.

For 305b screening assessments, Aquatic life use support is demonstrated through macroinvertebrate community integrity as well as adherence to relevant water quality criteria (Aquatic Life numeric criteria). The other two uses evaluated for 305b purposes are Food Procurement and Recreation. The former assessment is based on fish tissue screened for mercury; the latter is based on presence of fecal bacteria in the water. For 303d assessments, Aquatic life support is demonstrated through both biology and water chemistry data. 

Biological Criteria
__X__ Narrative statement
_____ Numeric
_____ No criteria

Kansas Surface Water Quality Standards
K.A.R.28-16-28e(d) Criteria for designated uses of surface waters

  1. Aquatic life support use.
    1. Nutrients. The introduction of plant nutrients into streams, lakes, or wetlands from artificial sources shall be controlled to prevent the accelerated succession or replacement of aquatic biota or the production of undesirable quantities or kinds of aquatic life.
    2. Suspended solids. Suspended solids added to surface waters by artificial sources shall not interfere with the behavior, reproduction, physical habitat, or other factors related to the survival and propagation of aquatic or semiaquatic life or terrestrial wildlife. In the application of this provision, suspended solids associated with discharges of presedimentation sludge from water treatment facilities shall be deemed noninjurious to aquatic and semiaquatic life and terrestrial wildlife, if these discharges fully meet the requirements of paragraphs (b)(6) and (8) and paragraph (d)(2)(D).

Antidegradation Policy
Use of biocriteria or bioassessments not included in antidegradation policy (PDF) (10 pp, 146 K)

Biological Assessment

What biological assemblages are used in the bioassessment program?
Benthic macroinvertebrates, fish, periphyton, mussels, and sestonic plankton

Are bioassessments used to support 303(d) listings?
Yes. Listing methodology: For 303d assessments, biotic indices have been screened and compressed into a multimetric index; with threshold values established to delineate full, partial and non-support of aquatic life.

How are assemblages used to make impairment decisions?
Macroinvertebrate samples (including aquatic insects, oligochaetes, mollusks and crustaceans) are collected with a 500 micron-mesh d-frame net. A time-based equal effort sampling scheme is employed where organisms are collected for one person-hour from all available habitats. The organisms are identified to the lowest practicable level (usually genus/species) and a tolerance based multimetric index used to describe the biological condition of the site sampled. Diversity, abundance, and autecology data are used to calculate a variety of macroinvertebrate indices to assess overall biological integrity of streams. Other assemblages (mussels, plankton, etc) are not used for impairment decisions but used as supporting evidence and supporting documentation of condition during TMDL development.

Other uses of biocriteria or bioassessment within the water quality program:
TMDL development and assessment, and 305(b) surface water condition assessments

Technical Support Information and Documents:

Reference condition:
The Stream Probabilistic program collects macroinvertebrate, mussel, phytoplankton, fish tissue, and water quality data from classified streams, to estimate aquatic life support in streams statewide, for 305b reporting. The reference stream population maintained and monitored by the Stream Probabilistic program is an evolving population of Least Disturbed sites selected from the known population of sites. Sites are selected across ecoregions and size/flow classes on the basis of water chemistry, habitat, biology, and watershed characteristics. These sites are monitored for the same suite of parameters with the exception of fish tissue.

Stream Biology program collects and analyzes chlorophyll, macroinvertebrate and mussel data from streams with varying levels of impact; provides primary data for 303(d) listing considerations relative to biology using thresholds and multimetric indices.

Technical reference material:
Stream Biological Monitoring Program and Stream Probabilistic Monitoring Program

Development of biocriteria involves the collection and interpretation of biological data –e.g. benthic macroinvertebrates, fish, and periphyton. During this process entities typically use biological metrics (usually aggregated into a multimetric index) and/or multivariate analysis to assess whether a waterbody is meeting its designated aquatic life use(s). The reference materials included below include standard operation procedures used in data collection, compilation, technical approaches used to develop biocriteria as well as its implementation procedures.

Technical reference material:
Methodology for the evaluation and development of the 2020 section 303(d) list of impaired water bodies for Kansas (PDF) (39 pp, 396 K) (pages 21-22; 23-24, 27, and 35)

Each Integrated Water Quality Report includes details on the how narrative biocriteria are applied for 305b assessment. Biotic index thresholds for evaluation of probabilistic sites (for 305b purposes) fluctuate, as they are derived from contemporaneous reference stream population values for streams of similar size.
2020 Kansas Integrated Water Quality Assessment (PDF) (170 pp, 3 MB)

For 303d assessments, biotic indices have been screened and compressed into a multimetric index; with threshold values established to delineate full, partial and non-support of aquatic life.

Stressor identification/causal analysis approach: 
There are two levels of assessment: a screening-level assessment is performed for 305b stream assessment, based on a relatively small quantity of data. A more rigorous 303d stream assessment is based on more data collected over a longer time span. The Stream Biology and Stream Chemistry programs, whose targeted long-term data support 303d listings and TMDL development, coordinate sampling where it is deemed informative to do so, and many sites are coincident. Lakes and wetlands are monitored on a rotating basis dependent on waterbody size, and assessments are used  in both 305b and 303d assessments.

The Stream Probabilistic program monitors instream/riparian habitat and water chemistry along with macroinvertebrates, for use in 305b assessments. Note that 305b assessments are “screening level” only, based on small datasets and not intended to be definitive site level assessments.  During the stressor identification process for 305b, a number of factors are considered: the macroinvertebrate community composition, water chemistry (including presence of bacteria), presence or absence of other aquatic life, instream habitat characteristics (such as substrate composition), and known landscape features, both anthropogenic and natural. Cross talk is informal: To some extent, existing 303d listings (known impairments) may be used to inform but not supersede probabilistic site assessments. Also, Stream Probabilistic data, where they are available, may be used by TMDL program to augment targeted data used for watershed assessments.

Technical reference material:
2020 Integrated Water Quality Report and typical TMDL assessments of current conditions (PDF) (170 pp, 3 MB)
Kansas Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs)

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