City tests water quality for Riverfest activities

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Like most Riverfest goers, Gabby and Jacob Marney spent the afternoon walking alongside the Arkansas River.

“It’s definitely a big focal point. Us being new here, we hear stuff about it all the time,” Gabby Marney said.

But what they hadn’t heard about are the flags located on the Douglas and Lewis Street bridges. The flags let festival goers know the water is safe, depending on the color.

“Blue or green means go ahead, get in, recreate. I mean, don’t drink it. That’s just dumb,” President and CEO of Wichita Festivals, Mary Beth Jarvis said.

Specifically, blue means the water is suitable for recreational use. Green flags mean the water is suitable but be sure wash your hands afterward and avoid swallowing the water.

“No, we had no idea. But it reminds me of riptide, when you’re at like a beach or something,” Jacob Marney said.

The City of Wichita checks the river every day during Riverfest and the weeks leading up to it, testing for bacteria like E. coli.

“For the nine days of the year that we really get in our river and use it as a general public, we want to make sure that we’re watching both the safety of the situation. Both in terms of water quality and the flow rate,” Jarvis said.

Along with bacteria testing, the city also checks the water flow each day.

“We want to make sure the current is not too strong for putting kids in paddle boats or canoes or kayaks,” Jarvis said.

Kids like Addy Anderson, who has already gotten on the river this weekend.

“You did the paddle boats,” Melissa Countryman said.

“Yeah and whenever we went out there, it first stunk, but then it got kind of good,” Anderson said.

They also didn’t know the city tested the water quality.

“I didn’t actually. I did not. So, it makes me feel even better that they do that,” Countryman said.

Riverfest organizers say the last few years, they’ve had great water quality and it just keeps improving.

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