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Johnson County

Research-based Information You Can Trust — Localized for your needs

Johnson County
11811 S. Sunset Drive
Suite 1500
Olathe, KS 66061

Office Hours:

Monday - Friday,
8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.

(913) 715-7000
(913) 715-7005 fax

Map to our office

K-State Research and Extension is committed to making its services, activities and programs accessible to all participants. Reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities may be requested by contacting Johnson County Extension at (913)715-7000. Notify staff of accommodation needs as early as possible.

Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service

K-State Research and Extension is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Water Conservation

     It might be raining today, but it is hard to miss all the talk of droughts in the news. Here in Johnson County there are several ways residents can improve their water conservation practices to lessen the impact of future droughts and dry spells. Reducing the amount of municipally treated water you use helps to save those resources for human consumption, reduces your water bill, and can assist in reducing pollution runoff. General fixes around your home to reduce leaky taps or running toilets are a great place to start. Running appliances with full loads also helps reduce water usage. Our horticulture pages have guidance on watering gardens and lawns in a conservation-friendly manner. However, if you’re looking to level up beyond installing water-conserving toilets and low-flow shower heads, water conservation methods that capture water outside or re-use water for other purposes might be for you. 

     One method of water conservation includes collecting precipitation. Rain barrels function as a collection system for rainwater that can then be used to water lawns and gardens, or for other uses. The water is not considered potable (for human consumption) and has a limited window of time it will stay fresh, though it may still be good for some applications. You can extend the length of time by using dark containers which block sunlight and reduce the growth of algae. Rain barrels are placed under a downspout but be aware if they overflow you could have issues with moisture in your basement. You can install a diverter or overflow fitting to redirect the water if the rain barrel gets full. Draining barrels for the winter will prevent cracking as the water freezes and thaws. 

     In partnership with the Johnson County Stormwater Management Program, Contain the Rain is a county-wide effort to make better use of our rain events and improve water quality for our communities. Many cities have cost-shares available for rain barrels through this program (check to see if your city has resources on the website). The program also has plans for rain gardens and native trees and plants to use in our area.

     Other options for water conservation include reusing gray water. Gray water is leftover water from washing machines, bathtubs, sinks, and dish washing. It can be collected or redirected for non-contact uses like irrigating lawns, trees, and other plants. The amount and quality of your gray water will determine the best use for it. Some systems can be installed to directly pipe the water from washing machines to plants outside. Gray water should be used the same day it is collected, should be applied to the soil (not directly onto the plants), and shouldn’t be used to water vegetable crops that touch the soil due to potential contaminants. 

     Cover crops are another great resource for conserving water. Cover crops trap water runoff which keeps more water in the surface soil. Leaving cover crops on the surface of a field after they die also slows down water and increases infiltration. Adding the cover crop into the soil as organic matter increases infiltration to roots. Residents may find it beneficial to use cover crops on a small scale as they provide the same benefits to backyard gardens as they do to agricultural systems.

     Rain gardens, cover crops, and other drought-tolerant vegetation are beneficial ways to increase filtration, stabilize soils, and out-compete weeds. Vegetated areas allow rain to be absorbed instead of running off into our storm water system. Consider porous surfaces instead of concrete or asphalt when designing outdoor spaces to assist with capturing water runoff.

For additional water conservation information check out KansasRunsOnWater.org.

Pond Tips for September

Remove Nutrients

  • Removing leaves and decaying vegetation from ponds helps to remove excess nutrients from the water. This will help with pond management in the long run. 

Aerator Maintenance

  • If your pond has a benthic aerator, cleaning the filter before the cold weather will be helpful to reduce the stress on the motor if you want to keep it running in the freezing months. Turning off aerators for a few months during freezing weather can prolong their life span. Running aerators all winter long provides oxygen to fish to prevent any winter kills and assists in breaking down all the leaves that end up in ponds during the fall. 

Remove Fish

  • If your fish aren’t suited for our cold winters, come up with a plan to remove them from ornamental ponds. If you have stocked a species like tilapia, harvest the fish before the weather gets to freezing. Tilapia are sensitive to water colder than 55* F. Letting fish decay in your pond adds back in all the nutrients they consumed during the warm months. If you experience a fish kill, removing the decaying fish is helpful for that same reason.