Water quality is a term referring to the physical, chemical, and biological features of water. The description of the quality of water as "good" or "bad" depends on the purpose for which it is being used, and is dependent on many different factors that are often interrelated. Some of these factors include atmospheric conditions, landscape features, connections between surface water and ground water, human activity, and type and number of point source and non-point source polluters. Many of these factors are discussed in this section.
The state of Kansas is a major agricultural state and a leading producer of wheat, grain sorghum, corn, sunflowers and soybeans. Kansas is also home to almost 7 million beef and dairy cows, as well as other livestock. Because there are so many of these non-point source polluters, the major threats to Kansas streams are nutrients and bacteria (from fecal matter) and pesticides (from agricultural crops) that wash into streams from overland runoff during storms. Other threats come from point source polluters and include in-river sand and gravel dredging operations, wastewater treatment plant effluent, industrial facilities, runoff from landfills, and coal-fired power plants.
The diagram below (from USGS) illustrates just a few of the factors that can affect water quality