All eyes on water quality leading up to Riverfest


WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Friday is the kick-off for the 2016 Riverfest, and city officials have been preparing for weeks.

Something that’s been on the minds of event organizers is how much rain we’ve had recently and how that could affect the river.

KSN spoke with event organizers to find out what they’re doing to monitor it.

Two main things they look for are water flow and water quality or bacteria levels.

The City of Wichita checks every day to make sure that the river is safe enough for festival-goers.

Event organizers say this is especially important because more water from rain means stronger currents and potentially more bacteria.

Those levels determine whether or not the river is safe for human-powered events like paddle boats.

It’s a collaboration between event organizers, and public health and public safety officials from the state, county and City of Wichita.

Each morning organizers get a message from the city with the daily water quality and current flow.

That allows them to make the call and decide if the water is safe enough for the events and concerts that day before the festival starts at 11 a.m.

“Safety is our first priority,” said Mary Beth Jarvis, Wichita Festivals president and CEO. “I mean we want to have nine great days on our river but if Mother Nature says that’s not the right thing to happen day in or day out of the festival, we’re going to follow her lead. Because we want everybody to leave the festival just as in tact and enjoying they’re time as when they came.”

Jarvis says she’s feeling positive.

Organizers like to see excess water flushed out from the river and storm debris removed with it.

That’s what creates the calm and stable downtown river that’s ideal for Riverfest.

Jarvis says even though we’ve had so much rain, they’ve been checking regularly and the water flow has actually dropped dramatically since Monday of this week.

That’s a trend they’d like to see continue but they say they won’t stop checking each day.

“We use those to make the best decisions we can about keeping people safe,” Jarvis said. “Should we be on the river in powered craft? On the river with human powered craft? Or take a break from the river? So we’ll do the best we can to give great fun to everyone while keeping us all safe.”

For more Riverfest updates you can click here.

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