b'SURFACE WATERHow many beetles remain in Lake ScottWhat would you say to critics who State Park today and what types ofdon\'t see value in protecting this conditions are threatening their survival?endangered species? Hofmeier: There are probably less than 10,000Hofmeier: Every species we have is important for individual beetles in the area, but that\'s a pretty bigsome reason. An ecosystem is like a building. If you shot in the dark. Its a challenge to determine the exactpull some nails or screws out of a building, it may not number and we rely on sampling to provide estimates. collapse but the more and more damage we do to the structureor in this case an ecosystemthe more we Were currently trying to better understand theaffect its integrity. And if you do enough damage over conditions that impact the population. One of ourtime, you can cause chain reactions that destroy basic biggest concerns is the health of the overall Ogallalaecosystem functions. Aquifer that feeds the spring the beetles live in. We want to monitor the discharge from the spring andWhile the Scott Riffle Beetle does feed other groundwater levels to see if there is any correlation organisms in the spring, one of its other primary roles with changes in the beetle population.in the ecosystem is to serve as an indicator of water quality for the area. Their survival depends on regular Overall, I see depletion of the aquifer as the biggestspring flow from the aquifer, with high dissolved threat. This species is so isolated, that even very smalloxygen and low contaminant levels.environmental events could have a substantial impact on its survival.So, it serves as kind of a canary in the coal mine.If we were to see abrupt decline in Do you have an early hypothesis as topopulation numbers, wed have an early what is driving the aquifer depletion? indication for groundwater contamination or that aquifer levels have reachedcritical levels.Hofmeier: Definitelyirrigation. Western Kansas is primarily cropland and the vast majority of those crops are irrigated in"[The Beetle] serves some form or another.as an indicator of There are ongoing efforts in the state to implement more efficient irrigationwater quality for systems and to plant less thirsty crops until we can slow down the depletionthe area."rate, but weve got a long way to go to find the equilibrium. The KDWPT performs regular habitat assessments to keep a keen eye on the endangered beetle species.16 MISSION: WATER'