the Wakarusa River
Paddling the Wakarusa River © Heidi Mehl/TNC

Stories in Kansas

Healthy Streams for Kansas

Clean waters, healthy people.

Heidi stands in front of an unnamed creek in the Flint Hills.
Heidi Mehl Director, Kansas Water & Agriculture Programs


Nearly 3/4 of Kansas streams are unsuitable for human use.

These unique and fragile ecosystems continue to lose their diversity at an alarming rate. But many Kansas streams can be restored and a few are still nearly as pure and wild as they were before European settlement. The David T. Beals III Healthy Streams for Kansas Initiative focuses on streams that fit one of these categories: those that reasonably can be recovered and those that need only protection from pollution or development.

What is a healthy stream?

Calling a stream healthy means a lot of things must come together: high water quality, healthy channel formation, good habitat for native aquatic species, stable riparian corridors and a watershed that supports biodiversity and complimentary land use.

In every respect, the valley rules the stream.

"The Ecology of Running Waters"

Where We Work

  • In the Rattlesnake Creek watershed we have partnered with Kansas State University, WaterPACK, and Kansas Groundwater District #5 to find solutions that will make agricultural irrigation more efficient and restore flow in the creek. Through a comprehensive land & water management approach, more water could ultimately flow into Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.
  • The Kansas River has been accepted into the Sustainable Rivers Program, a joint Nature Conservancy and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers program to modernize dam operations. Here, we are working to improve the health of a river basin that provides water to 800,000 people.
Also know as The Kaw, sandbars are a popular camping site.
Kansas River Also know as The Kaw, sandbars are a popular camping site. © Heidi Mehl/TNC
  • The Blue River begins in Johnson County, Kansas and flows into Missouri where it joins the Missouri River near Independence. We are protecting the headwaters in Kansas to prevent further degradation and ensure this tributary remains a vital source of water and recreational opportunities.

Support Our Work

in Kansas



Each year,  a university fellow is selected to assist with the Healthy Streams Initiative.  The application process and deadline for the next David. T. Beals III Healthy Streams for Kansas Fellowship will be announced in early 2021.

Heidi stands in front of an unnamed creek in the Flint Hills.

Heidi leads the Healthy Streams for Kansas Initiative where she works to recover the state’s streams and improve water quality, as well as directing burgeoning soil health and regenerative agriculture projects in Kansas. She has a strong interdisciplinary background spanning the fields of fluvial geomorphology, hydrology, biogeochemistry, and human-environment interaction. She has worked with both rural and indigenous communities to find solutions to water pollution and resource conflicts.

More About Heidi Mehl