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Energy and Environment Cabinet

Division of Water

Division of Water
Water Availability

The Water Quantity Management Section is charged with administering the sections of KRS 151 and KRS 224A and 401 KAR 4:220 pertaining to water withdrawal permitting, water supply planning and drought. All three of these programs serve to fulfill the water resources policy set forth in KRS 151.110. 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, regulate reasonably the amount of withdrawal of public waters and provide planning of regionalization, consolidation and partnerships among governmental agencies and private parties.


The water management 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. 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 All permit holders are required to maintain accurate records as to the amount of water withdrawn and to provide that information to the Division of Water (DOW) on a monthly basis. Withdrawal data is available for 1966 to the present and may be reported by use category, county or river basin.


The water supply planning program was legislated following the drought of 1988. The purpose of this planning process is to assess the current and future water needs of each county and to develop alternative water supplies so that water needs will be met and water service provided to all areas unserved or underserved by 2020. Water Management Plans and Source Water Assessment are developed in accordance with the requirements of KRS 224A, KRS 151 and 401 KAR 4:220 and submitted to the cabinet for approval. While water supply planning is voluntary, failure to develop an approved plan will result in nonendorsement of projects, which impact water supply that are submitted to the Kentucky Intergovernmental Review Process. All 120 counties in Kentucky are engaged in water supply planning, usually through the area development districts (ADDs).


Although the average annual precipitation in Kentucky is approximately 50 inches, areas of the state periodically experience extended periods during which there is little or no rainfall. In order to be prepared to deal responsibly with water supply shortages that often result from these rainfall deficits, the Energy and Environment Cabinet has developed a Water Shortage Response Plan. This document specifies in some detail the respective roles of state and local agencies in the event of a water supply shortage.

The basis of the plan is the two-level drought notification system. The two levels are identified as the Water Shortage Watch and the Water Shortage Warning, which somewhat parallel the designations used by the National Weather Service for other natural hazards, such as tornadoes and flash flooding. When either of these levels is announced, the geographic area and, in some cases, the supply sources(s) affected will be included in the announcement.

The DOW maintains a drought tracking Web site. During drought conditions, the Web site is updated weekly or even daily. In nondrought periods it is updated quarterly. The site contains useful information about stream and reservoir levels and drought management. It also provides links to other agencies involved in drought management.