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Ky.gov An Official Website of the Commonwealth of Kentucky

Energy and Environment Cabinet

Division of Water

Division of Water
Water Management

The Water Withdrawal Permitting program governs all withdrawals greater than 10,000 gallons per day from any surface or groundwater source, with the exception of water required for domestic or agricultural purposes and for steam-powered electrical generating plants.  Briefly stated, the intent of this policy is to maximize the conservation and beneficial use of water, prevent flooding, maintain the normal flow of all streams and regulate reasonably the amount of withdrawal of public waters.

Permit Required (no fee)  KRS 151.140

All withdrawals, diversions or transfers of any surface, ground or spring water averaging more than 10,000 gallons per day must be permitted, in most cases regardless of the purpose for which the water is used.

This requirement applies even if the land surrounding the water source is privately owned (including underground reservoirs, irrigation, storage or sediment impoundments). In addition to the traditional

Photo of a Kentucky Stream in Winter
uses of drinking water and industrial process water, this includes such diverse uses as deep mine and quarry dewatering operations, golf course withdrawals for irrigation, trout farms, artificial water falls, coal preparation plant recycling ponds, etc.

Each permit limits withdrawals to an amount that the permittee currently requires and that the water source is generally capable of providing. In addition, each permit may be conditioned to provide protection for other users and for the aquatic habitat. All permit holders are required to maintain accurate records as to the amount of water withdrawn and to provide that information to the Division of Water on a monthly basis.  Withdrawal data is available from 1966 to the present and may be reported by use category, county or river basin.

Exemptions - no permit is required for:

  1. Domestic purposes (needs for one household).
  2. Withdrawal, transfer or diversion of 10,000 average gallons per day (gpd) or less (401 KAR 4:010), except that permits may be required for withdrawals of less than 10,000 gpd where the division determines that the water withdrawn represents a significant portion of the available water supply or that collection of withdrawal data is necessary for water resource planning purposes.
  3. Agricultural withdrawals, including irrigation, except that the agricultural exemption does not include withdrawals from impoundments; agricultural users must have permits to withdraw more than an average of 10,000 gpd if the water is impounded (KRS 151.210).
  4. Water used in the production of electricity by steam generating plants of companies whose retail rates are regulated by the Kentucky Public Service Commission or for which facilities a certificate of environmental compatibility from such commission is required by law.
  5. Injection underground in conjunction with operations for the production of oil and gas.

Application Required (no fee) - KRS 151.150

All persons wishing to withdraw public water must register with the Division of Water and submit a permit application. Withdrawal without a permit is subject to penalties provided in KRS 151.990.

Temporary or emergency: All persons wishing to withdraw public water on a temporary or emergency basis must first notify the department and obtain agency authorization prior to commencement of such withdrawals.

Reporting Required--KRS 151.160

All permittees must record their use and report it to the division (daily average withdrawals recorded monthly and reported to the division semiannually, 401 KAR 4:010). Additional recording and reporting of withdrawals, groundwater levels and /or stream flows may be required on a case-by-case basis. Failure to report may result in revocation of the permit.

Public Water Defined--KRS 151.120

"Water occurring in any stream, lake, groundwater, subterranean water or other body of water in the Commonwealth which may be applied to any useful and beneficial purpose is hereby declared to be a natural resource and public water of the Commonwealth and subject to control or regulation for the public welfare."

The Water Withdrawal Permit Applications are available in downloadable Adobe Acrobat PDF format.

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