About Our Projects

The Wichita State University, Environmental Finance Center (EFC) provides professional training, technical assistance and applied research to help communities effectively manage the costs of environmental protection and compliance. The EFC supports its projects and staff, almost exclusively, with restricted use funds received via grants and contracts. In July 2020, in addition to the EFC’s current $2M in grants and contracts, the EFC applied for and will receive an additional $542,093 in grant project funding from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Region 7. 


Current Projects

» Water/Wastewater

Blue-Green Algae in Marion Lake  

Researchers from Wichita State University Environmental Finance Center (WSU EFC) and Kansas Biological Survey at Kansas University have combined forces to help battle the problematic blue-green algae bloom events that are creating havoc in many Kansas water bodies. The research team is assessing the potential of commercially produced chemical compounds to control or reduce algae blooms in Marion Lake, Kansas. 

The project combines the expertise of researchers from WSU and KU in an innovative approach. WSU researchers are contributing their expertise in nutrient management in municipal sewage treatment plants, and KU researchers are utilizing their expertise with nutrient management in lakes, ponds and riverine environments. A leading cause of the algal blooms is believed to be excessive nutrients in the water from various sources. The researchers are advancing blue-green algae research while also gaining an enhanced understanding of nutrient management. The project is funded by a Kansas Department of Health and Environment grant. Read More

Smart Management for Small Water Systems

The Smart Management for Small Water Systems Project seeks to address major issues facing the nation’s smallest drinking water systems (those serving 10,000 or fewer people). Our team of experts works with water systems across the country, US territories, and the Navajo Nation to address these issues, which range from asset management and rate setting to water loss detection and conservation, through training and technical assistance.

Small water systems can take advantage of training and resources through a variety of offerings including:

The Smart Management for Small Water Systems project is a collaborative effort between the members of the Environmental Finance Center Network and its partners, the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) and the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA). This project is made possible through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The American Water Works Association was a past partner on the project.

Work in Water

Our innovative career stewardship program that advances water careers in KS, IA, NE and MO communities.

Water Utilities across the U.S. report that there is an inadequate pool of interested and qualified employees to meet present and future replacement needs for operators and other utility staff. In order to meet the future water workforce demand, the EFC and their project partners developed the Work in Water program though an EPA Environmental Education Grant. Learn more »

The next phase of this exciting project is to take the Work in Water program to all EPA Region 7 states and train utility staff to conduct their own Work in Water Experiences and internships. Mini-grants will be awarded in each state for Utilities to host their first events. 

Questions about this project? Contact: Tonya Bronleewe, tonya.bronleewe@wichita.edu, (316) 978-6638

Lead Testing in Schools/Daycares
This year, the WSU EFC began the initial coordination on a region wide project to test the drinking water in tribal schools and daycare facilities for lead. The project is being completed in partnership with EPA and other agencies. Lead is a toxic chemical that can be found in drinking water and can have lifelong health effects. Although lead is banned from use in plumbing, it may still be present in drinking water. The project is being piloted with the Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas. Sampling will then be expanded to include all tribes in EPA Region 7. EPA Region 7 Laboratory is completing sample analyses.
Public Water Systems Asset Management Support for States

Section 2012 of the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 requires states to update their capacity development strategies to:

  1. Encourage development of asset management plans by public water systems
  2. Assist public water systems in training operators or other relevant and appropriate persons in implementing such asset management plans.

There is a need to assist states, nationwide, to help them address this new requirement. The WSU EFC is working Southwest EFC to provide asset management education and support to state governments. The EFC is providing asset management education including stakeholder engagement, developing or updating existing educational/training materials, and developing strategies to promote asset management within the states via webinars, conference calls, etc. The EFC is also developing additional training and tools for states with respect to board members and noncommunity water suppliers (such as self-supplied factories, schools, businesses, parks and camps.)

Sustainability Tool for Water Utilities
The WSU EFC has developed a Community Sustainability Tool for EPA Region 7 (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska). The purpose of the Sustainability Tool is to help local governments and tribes as well as public and private water utilities estimate the degree to which, over time, water utility fees will cover the substantial cost of the capital infrastructure needed to deliver safe, clean drinking water (Safe Drinking Water Act, 1974). The WSU EFC will further develop the Sustainability Tool for use in other states, tribal lands and regions of the country. The WSU EFC is currently working to develop and adapt the tool for use in the State of Louisiana and other states in EPA Region 6. 
Trainings for Public Water Utilities

WSU EFC designed trainings to teach Kansas municipal officials and utility staff about the managerial and financial aspects of running a water system.

These trainings are part of a contract with KDHE that seeks to build capacity for municipal officials and utility staff that make financial decisions regarding their community's water utility. The project includes conducting interactive trainings across Kansas, on topics such as utility asset management, financial planning, and promotion of inter-local cooperation.

With our partners at Kansas Municipal Utilities and Ranson Citycode Financial, we facilitate the following training topics:

View training calendar »

KanCap Water Utility Capacity Development for Boards/Councils

In partnership with the Southwest Environmental Finance Center WSU EFC created a training and manual for use by any elected official with the responsibility for operating and maintaining a water utility. Elected officials may be members of a city council or county commission or serve on the board of a Rural Water District. In many cases, the board’s responsibilities extend far beyond the water utility, but the responsibility to provide safe, reliable drinking water should be regarded as paramount since it is foundational to the community. Additionally, in small communities, the water infrastructure may constitute the largest investment of the community. While board members are the primary audience for this training, water utility staff, bookkeepers and managers will also find portions of the training useful.

WSU EFC works with Kansas Municipal Utillites to deliver the KanCap training across Kansas annually.

Upcoming Trainings  »

Testing for Chemical Removal of Phosphorus

Analyzing the feasibility and cost of chemical phosphorus removal for wastewater treatment systems across Kansas.

As part of an effort to reduce phosphorus in surface waters, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment contracted with the EFC to test chemicals for removal of phosphorus at municipal wastewater treatment plants. Our sewer and septic systems have a significant role in protecting waterways from excess phosphorus because they treat and recycle large quantities of wastewater. The more phosphorus these systems are able to remove, the healthier we can make our water ecosystems.

As phosphorus limits are incorporated into wastewater treatment plant regulations, a need was identified for on-site training for wastewater operators. The EFC staff visited 10 wastewater treatment plants across Kansas to train operators and analyze the feasibility of phosphorus removal using chemicals. Our staff used a technique called "jar testing" to determine the effectiveness of chemical removal of phosphorus, and the optimal amounts of chemical to be used to reduce phosphorus to prescribed concentrations.

CLASIC (Community Life-cycle Analysis for Stormwater Infrastructure Costs)

CLASIC stands for Community Life-cycle Analysis for Stormwater Infrastructure Costs. CLASIC is an online tool intended to support stormwater infrastructure decisions using life-cycle costs to compare green, hybrid green-gray, and gray infrastructure practices.

The WSU EFC is one of several partners working with the Water Research Foundation to develop the CLASIC tool. CLASIC is an online tool intended to support stormwater infrastructure decisions using life-cycle costs to compare green, hybrid green-gray, and gray infrastructure practices. Using CLASIC, communities can evaluate scenarios of different green and gray infrastructure combinations to inform decision-making based on lifecycle costs and/or preference to achieve:

  • Regulatory compliance
  • Volume reduction
  • Water quality improvements
  • Social and environmental benefits

Questions about CLASIC? Contact: Tonya Bronleewe,  tonya.bronleewe@wichita.edu, (316) 978-6638

KS Asset Management Users Group

A project that provides professional development to water and wastewater professionals to further the implementation of asset management concepts through networking with other systems and content experts.

Kansas Asset Management Users Group (KS AMUG) is a bi-annual meeting hosted by WSU EFC for public water professionals across Kansas. The meetings are typically hosted by a municipal water utility in Kansas. This networking event provides the opportunity to state public water professionals to learn from each other and keep in touch on local water news, projects and innovations. Professional consultants and engineers are also welcome to attend and present at these meetings. KS AMUG webpage »

KS AMUG is free and open to anyone interested in learning more about the implementation of water utility asset management concepts. 

Join our KS AMUG mailing list »

» Household Environmental Hazards

Planning & Marketing of Household Hazardous Waste Community Drop-offs

The EFC is partnering with eight tribal communities in Region 7 to plan and market Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Drop-Off events. These events allow families to improve the chemical safety around their homes through proper identification and disposal of HHW. The EFC will also assist tribes in assessing funding options for the implementation of their waste management programs.

Springfield Geographic Initiative: Lead, Pests and Pesticides

The EPA has dedicated 2020-2021 to the Springfield Geographic Initiative to reduce childhood exposure to lead in paint and soils and to reduce the exposure of vulnerable populations to pests and pesticides. The EFC will work with the EPA and stakeholders in the Springfield, Missouri to take steps towards reducing lead-risk for families, preventing and safely controlling bedbugs, and improving waterways through pesticide runoff reduction.

» Recycling & Waste Management

Kansas Recycling Survey

The EFC is developing outreach materials for recyclers, updating and enhancing recycling surveys, and investigating potential new markets to increase material reuse and recycling, reduce landfill pressure and improve economic development. Recycling opportunities are tracked using a voluntary survey and the State Measurement Model. State-level information helps the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) complete national solid waste and recycling reports. A statewide recycling survey has not been completed in a few years, and worldwide the business of recycling has changed dramatically. Understanding the current state of recycling in Kansas will increase the state’s ability to change, adapt and develop new opportunities.

Wichita Litter Study

The WSU Environmental Finance Center is seeking volunteers to help with the collection and counting of litter across Wichita. City of Wichita and WSU Environmental Finance Center are hosting citywide clean-up events in which volunteers will collect, count and categorize litter. The Environmental Finance Center will then analyze the litter data to learn about the types and amounts of trash collected. The results will be shared with the City and community to help inform future programs to reduce litter in Wichita. More

» Food Waste & Protecting Natural Resources

Local Sustainable Management of Food Summits

The EFC will develop and host a Sustainable Food Management Summit in each of the four Region 7 states (KS, NE, IA, MO). The EFC will engage stakeholders, identify goals, develop the agenda and host the Summits. The Summits will educate, inspire and create new local partnerships or programs that increase source reduction, food recovery for people and animals, as well as reuse through industrial uses and composting.


» Brownfields

Cozad, NE Concrete Project with Delta Institute

Cozad, NE is the location of a former shock absorber and auto parts plant. When the plant closed, the buildings were removed leaving an eight-acre slab of concrete at the “gateway” to the community. The Cozad Development Corporation finds this concrete slab inhibits reinvestment. The EFC is partnering with Delta Institute, a nonprofit whose mission is to work with Midwest communities to solve complex environmental challenges. Together the EFC and Delta will develop cost and end-use strategies to safely remove and reuse the concrete to bring valuable business-investment and jobs to Cozad.

 

» Air Quality

Radon Event in Nebraska and Kansas: Indoor Air Quality

According to EPA’s 2003 Assessment of Risks from Radon in Homes, radon causes an estimated 21,100 lung cancer deaths each year. Radon-caused cancer prevention can be simple and inexpensive.  To make greater progress towards reducing the risk and costs of radon-related lung cancer Nebraska and Kansas families, the EFC will partner with local decision makers to develop a community outreach and education event that encourages medical and public health professionals to ask the Key Question: “Have you tested your home for radon?” to their patients. More 


» Conservation, Sustainability & Green Infrastructure

Water Equity Roadmap: An Urban Waters Federal Partnership Project

The EFC is partnering with the River Ambassador at Heartland Conservation Alliance to develop a “One Water Equity Roadmap” for the Blue River Watershed in the Kansas City Metro area. Water Equity Roadmaps provide communities with connections between water management and equity. As the Kansas City Community faces aging infrastructure, flash-flooding, water utility affordability and other water and equity challenges, a Water Equity Roadmap will help community leaders, businesses, organizations and neighbors identify challenges and the equitable water policies and practices.

Trash Trap: An Urban Waters Federal Partnership Project

The EFC is partnering with the Missouri Confluence Waterkeeper (MCW) organization to characterize, quantify and identify litter trends on three urban waterways in metro St. Louis, Missouri. The Trash Trap project will use floating booms to capture floating litter. Then, MCW volunteers will remove the trash as they collect and record the litter data. The EFC will analyze the data and identify trends that will inform future projects aimed at reducing trash in waterways, including solid waste and sustainable materials management best practices.

Sustainable Funding Options for the River Ambassador Addendum: An Urban Waters Federal Partnership Project

The EFC is investigating sustainable funding options that would continue the efforts of the Urban Waters Federal Partnership (UWFP) River Ambassador in the Meramec/Big River Watershed near St. Louis, MO and the Middle Blue River Watershed in Kansas City, KS and MO. In partnership with each River Ambassador and their stakeholder teams, the EFC is developing a transition plan and pilot project that’s goal is to secure funding that will continue the River Ambassador’s role as convener, facilitator, collaborator and communicator for the watershed’s overall environmental, economic and social improvement efforts.


 


 Past Projects

» Water/Wastewater

Capital Improvement Planning Workshops for Utilities

This training provides an overview of the importance of capital planning and review the elements necessary to develop and implement a CIP. Participants learn the details of putting together a capital plan through checklist and matrix tools. Financial research information is also provided on traditional and non-traditional funding sources in order to provide options available for funding capital assets.

WSU EFC has conducted CIP trainings in McPherson, Kansas, Lee's Summit, Missouri and Ankeny, Iowa.

Questions about this project? Contact: Nick Willis, nicholas.willis@wichita.edu, (316) 978-6421

Municipal Utility Management (MUM) Program

A professional management course for Kansas public water utility professionals.

The Municipal Utility Management Program was instituted at the request of Kansas Utilities who are having a difficult time developing managers from within their organization. The EFC enlisted the assistance of Kansas Municipal Utilities (KMU) to develop and conduct the program with the goal to develop critical management skills unique to municipal utility management that will create an internal pipeline of utility managers.

Upon course completion, MUM participants have better knowledge of how to protect public health and the environment through the management and finance planning practices presented in the sessions. The program also assists Utilities in finding skilled personnel to assume the management roles in their organization and reduce the lag time in filling positions. This annual program is a series of six sessions. Brochure

Questions about this project? Contact: Brian Bohnsackbrian.bohnsack@wichita.edu, (316) 978-6421

Asset Management for Very Small Water Systems in EPA Region 7

The Very Small Systems project provides asset management training for very small drinking water systems (those serving 500 or fewer people) throughout EPA Region 7 (KS, MO, IA and NE).

WSU EFC provided asset management trainings in 2018-19 in Camdenton, Missouri; Macy, Nebraska; and Ankeney, Iowa and the Kickapoo tribe in Kansas.

The EFC also offered assistance to communities and tribes who attended trainings. Community outreach assistance was provided for Omaha Tribal Utilities Department to help educate their customers about the importance and regulation of public tap water. Posters, bill inserts and brochures were custom created for Omaha Tribal Utilities Department to use as part of their community outreach campaign.

Questions about this project? Contact: Brian Bohnsackbrian.bohnsack@wichita.edu, (316) 978-6421

Missouri Sewer District Guidance

At the request of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), the EFC is assisting the MDNR in its efforts to increase the potential for success with small systems that wish to develop regional wastewater systems. The EFC is developing a detailed guidance document on how to successfully form a sewer district in Missouri in a way the average citizen can understand.

Questions about this project? Contact: Brian Bohnsackbrian.bohnsack@wichita.edu, (316) 978-6421

Energy Efficiency Training and Assessment Program

The WSU EFC provided assistance to communities in EPA Region 7 to identify opportunities to reduce energy and operating costs at water and wastewater plants across the region. Work on the project began in 2014 and concluded in Sept. 2015. The project included hosting three trainings on energy efficiency, as well as identifying 8-10 systems that received water and wastewater plant energy assessments. (Funding provided by EPA Region 7.)

Omaha Tribe of Nebraska Water Utility Technical and Financial Assistance Project

The WSU EFC worked with both EPA tribal enforcement staff and the Omaha Tribe’s Utility Department staff to develop a sustainable financial plan for the tribe’s water, wastewater and solid waste utilities. In addition to financial assistance, the EFC is assisting with technical operations at the plant to increase energy efficiency of the water plant as well as reduce water loss in the system. The EFC also developed operating budgets for the tribe’s utilities and will be making recommendations on rate structures. The project concluded in 2015. (Funding provided by EPA Region 7.)

Kansas Water Rate Setting Online Program (Online Rate Check-Up Tool)

The WSU EFC, in partnership with T3 Technology Training Team and Ranson Financial, jointly developed a user-friendly online water rate setting program. The program provides small water systems the ability to enter three years of water use data and financial statement information, which allows the program to deliver tailored rate recommendations that enable systems to fully fund their operations. The tool is free for Kansas systems. Check out the Rate Check-Up Tool here. (Funding provided by Kansas Department of Health and Environment.)

West Wichita Water Contamination Project

The WSU EFC, in partnership with the University of Kanas School of Medicine, was selected to participate in a community study to investigate health impacts that have resulted from a recently discovered groundwater contamination plume in west Wichita. Almost 200 residents in the area were on well water when they were exposed to PCE from a nearby dry cleaner for what could have been decades. Since the discovery in early 2014, the residents have been connected to city water through state funding. The scope of our study included three aims:

  • Examine the actions to date on the site and technical documents
  • Conduct an assessment of remaining needs of the affected community
  • Identify health concerns raised by residents

WSU conducted focus groups and interviews with residents to identity any obvious health concerns as well as any additional needs residents have. (Funding provided by the Wichita Medical Research and Education Foundation.)

Kansas Nonpoint Source Revolving Loan Fund Project

The WSU EFC provided technical assistance to support the development and implementation of a low-interest state revolving loan (SRF) program to be utilized to fund nonpoint source (NPS) pollution control projects in Kansas. The program provided a new low-cost option to promote improved water quality across the state. WSU’s services included analyzing similar programs in other states, developing a financial framework between the state and the banks and implementing the framework with a few pilot banks. (Funding provided by Kansas Department of Health and Environment.)

Water Research Foundation Project

Through a sub-award with the University of New Mexico EFC, the WSU EFC assisted with a study titled “Identifying and Evaluating Opportunities for Reducing Variability of Utility Revenues.” The study identified alternative rate structures that provide water utilities with more revenue stability. The project includes a literature review, qualitative analysis, investigation of other utility practices, and case study development. (Funding provided by the Water Research Foundation.)

» Air Quality

Asthma Financing Training Series

Asthma is a life-threatening chronic respiratory disease that affects the lives of 23 million Americans, including six million children. The CDC estimates that asthma costs the United States more than $80 billion each year in medical expenses, days missed from work or school, and deaths. In-home asthma care is proven to reduce symptom days and health care costs. Join health and housing professionals at the Midwest Regional Asthma Summit to focus on successes, opportunities and challenges facing home-based asthma interventions. 

WSU EFC offered monthly webinars hosted by national and regional asthma financing and healthy homes experts. View webinar recordings here.

Questions about this project? Contact: Tonya Bronleewe,  tonya.bronleewe@wichita.edu, (316) 978-6638

Radon Action Awareness

EPA Region 7 state radon representatives discussed the needs and outreach efforts that could be used to get the radon brochures and posters out to physicians for use with their patients in their offices. WSU EFC created brochures and posters that were custom designed to target each state’s needs. The EFC also developed articles to be used in medical association’s newsletters and those will also be distributed next quarter. Radon Resources

Questions about this project? Contact: Tonya Bronleewe tonya.bronleewe@wichita.edu, (316) 978-6638

» Conservation, Sustainability & Green Infrastructure

Cost-Benefit Analysis on Healthy Watershed Options for the communities in the Lower Meramec Watershed

The WSU EFC spent much of 2019 working with local communities and local and state agencies to develop a cost-benefit analysis-report on healthy watershed options for the communities in the Lower Meramec Watershed. This report was developed to help municipal staff and local decision makers make decisions about floodplain buyouts and implementation of other healthy watershed projects. 

Often, funding is the barrier to moving forward on healthy watershed projects. The EFC has also completed a great online tool to help communities search for funding opportunities for planning and implementing healthy watershed options. Go to www.wichita.edu/mowatershedfunding and use keywords (project type, funding type, etc.) to search for funding opportunities for your targeted effort. 

Questions about this project? Contact: Tonya Bronleewe tonya.bronleewe@wichita.edu, (316) 978-6638

Vacant to Vibrant Tool

WSU EFC and WSU Training and Technology Team (T3) worked together to develop the Vacant to Vibrant Lot Transformation Calculator. This online tool helps residents, neighborhoods and organizations estimate the costs of transforming and maintaining vacant lots in the Kansas City area. The online tool can be found at https://www.vacanttovibrantkc.org/.

The Vacant to Vibrant Lot Transformation Calculator project followed a cost-comparison report that the WSU EFC completed for MARC and the Heartland Conservation Alliance as part of their Urban Waters Federal Partnership work to improve river health in the Middle Blue River Watershed. The report identified seven alternative treatments that could be installed on vacant lots and compared the cost of installation and long-term maintenance to the traditional mowing regimen.

Questions about this project? Contact: Tonya Bronleewe,  tonya.bronleewe@wichita.edu, (316) 978-6638

Omaha Green Infrastructure

The City of Omaha Stormwater Department and the Omaha Public School District are leading the way in environmental protection and youth environmental education with their unique partnership. The WSU EFC, in partnership with the University of Maryland Environmental Finance Center, created tools and resources for Omaha Public School's Green Infrastructure Toolkit and Education Project. The project included real-world guidance for stormwater load reductions for school grounds, classroom lessons that connect green infrastructure to student learning, and resources for school administrators and maintenance crews to promote and maintain projects into the future. Learn more »

(Funding provided by EPA Region 7.)

EFC Home Page

Questions on any of our work? Please contact Leslie Kimble, (316) 978-7460 or leslie.kimble@wichita.edu.