Greg Foley, director of the Division of Conservation for the Kansas Department of Agriculture, said state officials estimate the number of miles of regulated waterways in the state would rise from about 35,000 to roughly 139,000.

Some of these waterways flow only a few times a decade, he said.

It is especially true in western Kansas, where even the Arkansas River – considered a navigable river in Kansas – rarely flows between Lakin and Dodge City.

According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, the agency that enforces the Clean Water Act in Kansas for most of the 100,000 additional miles that could fall under the rule, the biggest issue is lack of water. The additional 100,000 stream miles comprise perennial, intermittent and ephemeral streams.

KDHE spokeswoman Sara Belfry said state law protects perennial and intermittent streams with water quality standards, although it does not apply to ephemeral streams that flow only as a direct result of immediate rain and runoff.

“Inclusion of such streams under the Clean Water Act is one of the big issues we are currently studying,” she said.

KDHE officials have seen successes as they work to clean Kansas waters, she added. More than 200 impaired watersheds between 2002-2012 now meet water quality standards. Kansas’ Total Maximum Daily Load limit is watershed-based; thus all streams, including unclassified streams that are not currently considered Waters of the U.S., are included, as practices applied to them are beneficial.

“One of our problems with the rule is it would have us treat these unclassified, often ephemeral streams as equivalent in value to the streams that seasonally or continually have water and support a variety of uses such as aquatic life, recreation and water supply,” Belfry stated. “This distraction diverts our finite staff and financial resources over to marginal issues and prevent us from making progress on improving the conditions of live streams.”

In late August, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology released maps of waters and wetlands the EPA has previously refrained from making public.

That includes for Kansas, which shows much of the state covered by intermittent streams.

According to Tom Reynolds, the EPA’s associate administrator for external affairs, the maps were originally created in 2005 during the previous administration to understand the potential impact of Supreme Court decisions on the nation’s water resources. He noted in a blog that the maps don’t show what is covered or what could be covered by the proposed rule.

Still, say some, it shows the perennial, intermittent and ephemeral streams that some farmers fear could be included in the rule.

“In this circumstance, a picture is worth more than a thousand words,” said Ryan Flickner, with the Kansas Farm Bureau. “It shows the additional 100,000 miles of water and land features the federal government wants to control in Kansas.”