The Blue River

Report Card


About the Report Card


The Blue River Report Card is a unique iterative process that seeks to grade the Blue River watershed holistically. To create the Report Card, the watershed was divided into three sections: the Upper, Middle, and Lower. Each section was scored separately. This approach takes data from a wide array of categories and indicators to best understand the river’s health as well as the community’s connection to the Blue River. The categories measured are: 

Community Connections





Water Quality

Download the Blue River Report Card

For additional information, please download the Glossary of Terms


The Blue River Report Card will increase awareness among Kansas City communities and progress watershed protection policies and actions that will ensure the Blue River remains an asset to Kansas Citians into the future.

How healthy is the Blue River?


In 2021, the Blue River Watershed received a “C“ letter grade with an overall score of 46%.

The photographs below were taken to assess the Blue River and provide documentation of the habitat, water quality and development indicators for the Blue River Report Card. These are just a few examples of how the Blue River has been impacted and the varying levels of restoration needed. Photos are by Ian Fannin-Hughes.

Habitat: how much natural habitat exists along the Blue River to maintain a healthy ecosystem?

  • Indicator 1: Riparian cover – how extensive is the natural forest vegetation along the Blue River?
  • Indicator 2: Native Habitat – how much natural vegetation exists and is managed in the Blue River?

Camp Branch is an example of a prime stream site in the Blue River.

It is least impacted and has an intact habitat and stream structure. Excellent river bank quality and vegetation.

Northern water snake and Great blue heron (right)

Northern water snake and Great blue heron (right) signals good land and aquatic habitat that supports a strong food web with predators.

Great Blue Heron

Water Quality: How clean is the water in the Blue River to provide for aquatic life and community recreation?

  • Indicator 1: Water Quality Index – How does pollution affect the water quality of the Blue River?
  • Indicator 2: Macroinvertebrates – How many different invertebrate organisms can survive in the Blue River?
  • Indicator 3: Stream Visual Assessment – How impacted are the habitats, riparian areas, banks and stream beds of the Blue River?
Active pollution and erosion in the stream mixes with non-polluted waters.
Food dye in the stream (Flat Rock Creek tributary of Indian Creek) shows active pollution and a poor quantity of river bank vegetation and tree cover. The stream water color has changed.
A sign there is good water quality is ample vegetation along the river bank.

Development: How do development practices impact the Blue River?

  • Indicator 1: Impervious Surface – how much impervious surface (roads, rooftops, etc.) surrounds the Blue River?
  • Indicator 2: Protected Open Space – How much land is protected from development and left open for people to enjoy?
  • Indicator 3: Urban Tree Canopy – How expansive is the tree cover in our communities?
Coffee Creek is a good stream site with low banks, but has been impacted by new development (in the background) loss of protection over the stream and the vegetation
A bridge over the Blue River at Kenneth Road that shows impacts to the river. Stream crossings include changes to water movement and sustainability.
Active bank erosion on Indian Creek. The lack of tree and native plant cover allows for severe bank erosion.

Heartland Conservation Alliance seeks to objectively improve grades within the science-based Blue River Report Card with every update. The tentative schedule for the 2024 update is: 


  • Fall 2023 / Winter 2024 – committee assignment, strategic planning, and methodological review
  • Spring / Summer 2024 – data collection
  • Summer / Fall 2024 – data analysis and writing
  • Fall / Winter 2024 – HCA publishes report card update

Contact HCA Conservation Program Manager, Jess Hartel, if you have questions regarding the Blue River Report Card: