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Ky.gov An Official Website of the Commonwealth of Kentucky

Energy and Environment Cabinet

Division of Water

Division of Water
Karst Hydrological Issues

Karst terranes are underlain by weathered soluble rocks such as limestone or dolomite.  Well-developed karst is typically characterized by sinkholes (closed depressions), sinking and losing streams, subterranean drainage, caves and large springs.

Any land surface underlain by weathered limestone or dolomite has the potential for rapid groundwater movement through channels in bedrock (conduits).

 Photo of Boiling Spring - 10th Largest Spring in Kentucky

This rapid water movement makes any karst terrane sensitive to pollution, whether well-developed karst features are present or not. For further information on karst, please download Groundwater and Karst.

Because more than half of Kentucky is underlain by karst, the Groundwater Section is vitally interested in the environmental issues unique to this type of geology.

Ongoing studies focus on mapping the extent of karst basins through dye tracing as well as characterizing groundwater quality.

Dye InjectionSpring inventory and other related forms are available for download on our Forms and Related Documents page.  Dye-trace notifications may be submitted electronically via our Dye-Trace Notification page.

More information on karst is available in the electronic document “Ground-Water Monitoring in Karst Terranes: Recommended Protocols and Implicit Assumptions,” by James P. Quinlan, which may be downloaded from the Karst Waters Institute’s Electronic Documents and Databases site. Other items of interest in karst research are available there for download.

More sources for karst water system information and research:
   Center for Cave and Karst Studies
   Western Kentucky University Karst Studies Group