Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content An Official Website of the Commonwealth of Kentucky

Energy and Environment Cabinet

Division of Water

Division of Water
Groundwater Awareness

Groundwater Graphic

What is groundwater and where does it come from?
Groundwater is the water from rain or other precipitation that soaks into the ground and moves downward to fill cracks and other openings in soils and rocks. Groundwater is an abundant natural resource making up 90 percent of all of the freshwater in the world.

Why is groundwater important to you?
Kentucky’s groundwater is an important source of drinking water for close to 2 million Kentuckians, as well as a source of water for industry and irrigation.

Who uses groundwater?
An estimated 1,537,595 Kentuckians are served by 185 public water systems (PWSs) that rely on groundwater, in whole or part, as their source.  An additional 415,950 rural Kentuckians not connected to public water systems rely on private wells or springs for their drinking water.  Groundwater also contributes significant recharge to streams; it is the groundwater that keeps water in streams when it is not raining.

Why be concerned about groundwater contamination?
Protection of this resource is crucial to Kentucky’s economy, public health and the environment. For many people and public water systems, there is no way to replace this valuable, high-quality resource. As noted above, many people in Kentucky rely on clean available groundwater and many have no other source of drinking water. Furthermore, healthy streams rely on clean groundwater to provide normal flow in the stream. The costs to clean up groundwater, once contaminated, are great. Many contaminated sites costs tens of thousands to millions of dollar to clean up. The cost to replace drinking water sources is also very expensive. So protecting groundwater from contamination is not only environmentally sound, it is also economically sound.

What can I do to protect groundwater?
If you are an industry or business (e.g., gas station, dry cleaner, manufacturer) conducting activities with the potential to pollute groundwater, make sure you are in compliance with all regulatory requirements. Ensure your Groundwater Protection Plan (GPP) is current and is being implemented properly. If you are a business or industry in a community that receives its public water from a groundwater source, participation in local wellhead protection planning and implementation activities can be an important and useful civic project.

Municipalities that rely on groundwater for drinking water should work with political leaders, businesses and citizens to develop and implement meaningful and effective programs to protect groundwater sources from contamination. Check out the Wellhead Protection Program for more information on protecting public supplies of drinking water.

Individual citizens also have a responsibility to protect groundwater. There may be many potential sources of groundwater contamination in and around our homes, and many activities around the house have the potential to contaminate groundwater. Potential sources of groundwater contamination should be properly managed and maintained, and activities should be conducted in a groundwater friendly manner. It is always helpful to become more knowledgeable about groundwater and the threats to this resource. Increase your knowledge about groundwater and activities that threaten groundwater through our Groundwater Contamination Issues page.  If you live in a community that receives its public water from a groundwater source, find out more about the community wells and springs. Your individual participation in local wellhead protection planning and implementation activities can be critical to making wellhead protection work to really protect your source of drinking water.

Agricultural facilities conduct many activities that have the potential to contaminate groundwater. Farmers are the original stewards of the environment and have always had an interest in protecting groundwater. Many farmers rely on groundwater for drinking water, for watering stock and for irrigation. It is important that farmers conduct their business in a way that allows them to optimize their activities and also protect the environment they rely on. Agricultural operations are required to have and implement an Agriculture Water Quality Plan.  Farmers should review their agriculture water quality plans to make sure they are current to the activities being conducted or planned for the season and that the best management practices in their plans are appropriate to the operation and properly implemented.

Does your drinking water come from groundwater?
Private wells supply drinking water and water for other uses for more than 400,000 Kentuckians. If you rely on a well or spring for your water, you know the importance of protecting groundwater. Usually, we are the greatest threat to our own source of groundwater. Therefore, we need to make sure we are aware of the potential to contaminate our wells and springs, how to protect them and have them work for us.

How can I protect my well?
Do a well checkup! Have your water well checked annually and treat your well for contaminants. Implementing best management practices is important to the long-term health of your well and the groundwater that supplies that well. Know how to take care of your well, and implement a groundwater protection plan for your well. Information for private water well owners, including some helpful publications, is maintained by the Technical Services Section of the Kentucky Division of Water's Groundwater Branch on their Water Well Related Concerns page.  Following some simple “Do’s and Don’ts” can make every difference in your having a reliable source of drinking water or having to find another source of water.

To contact a Kentucky Groundwater Association member or to locate a Kentucky certified water well or monitoring well driller in your area, go to or contact Holly Lyell at 270-251-3004.

Many individuals on private wells also rely on septic systems. Learn how to take care of your septic system and implement a groundwater protection plan for your septic system.

How are karst issues pertinent to groundwater awareness?
More than 50 percent of Kentucky is underlain by karst topography. Karst topography is typified by sinkholes, sinking streams, springs, caves and other related features. These features are formed by the dissolution of the underlying bedrock, principally limestone. Karst topography provides us with the beautiful rolling landscapes of the Inner Bluegrass region as well as the Pennyrile region. Kentucky’s only national park and state jewel, Mammoth Cave, was formed by karst processes.

Groundwater in karst regions is particularly susceptible to contamination. Because of the nature of karst, water moves rapidly into the subsurface from discrete sites such as sinkhole drains and sinking streams, as well as in nondiscrete locations by moving through large pores in the soils. This rapid migration of water into the subsurface does not provide for the filtering of contaminants in the soils and rocks before arriving in the aquifer. Therefore, we need to be more diligent about protecting groundwater in these susceptible regions, including using best management practices, and following certain “Do’s and Don’ts” such as DO NOT dispose of anything in sinkholes! To learn more about Kentucky’s karst aquifers and groundwater protection in these areas, visit Karst Hydrological Issues.

Where can I get more information on groundwater awareness?

Where can I get more information on Groundwater Awareness Week?

Back to Groundwater Main Page