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Energy and Environment Cabinet

Kentucky Division of Water

Division of Water
Water Quality Monitoring

For more than 20 years, the Division of Water has monitored the quality of Kentucky's rivers, streams, lakes and reservoirs. For many years, rivers and streams monitoring consisted of a statewide network of only 45 stations. However, since the implementation of the five-year rotating basin management unit (BMU) approach in 1998, more intensive monitoring has been achieved. There are now 70 fixed, long-term water quality monitoring stations throughout the Commonwealth, and an additional 20 to 25 rotating watershed monitoring sites that provide more intensive scrutiny of water quality conditions per BMU.  Monitoring of lakes has remained fairly consistent since it began in 1981. The emphasis in this program is to determine the long-term water quality conditions in these reservoirs/lakes.

Biological Monitoring
Collection and analysis of aquatic organisms for the assessment of water quality is performed by the following programs:

  • Probabilistic Monitoring
    Using macroinvertebrates, streams are assessed randomly within each basin to project the use support of the watershed.
  • Reference Reach
    The Reference Reach Program collects and summarizes data from least-disturbed streams using a regional framework in order to develop appropriate criteria for bioassessment interpretation.
  • Watershed Biological Monitoring
    This program collects and analyzes aquatic life for the assessment of water quality using fixed and variable sites within the watershed framework.

These biological sampling programs are driven by different objectives but use the same sampling techniques. Go to the Standard Operating Procedures page for methodology details.

Bacteria are monitored in many Kentucky streams and lakes to determine the level of support for recreational uses (swimming, wading, etc.).

Fish Tissue
Fish tissue samples are collected from many sites across the Commonwealth to help determine if the fish are safe for human consumption. Fish are analyzed for metals, including mercury, PCBs, chlordane, and pesticides and herbicides. Results are used to determine if there are potential problems with contaminants in fish tissue that require further sampling. The data from this analysis is then provided to state and local officials so consumption advisories may be issued when warranted. If results are not elevated, no further fish tissue sampling is conducted in that stream reach.

Sediments provide habitat and important structure for benthic organisms (organisms that are bottom-dwellers). Division of Water monitors the quality of stream sediments to gain an overall understanding of the background conditions of sediments in wadeable streams and identify areas where concentrations of pollutants in sediments are elevated from background or historic records. 

Monitoring of sediments in Kentucky is conducted at the fixed stations within the watershed network framework. Sampling follows the guidelines of the U.S. Geological Survey's National Water Quality Assessment Program. Variables monitored include metals, nutrients and pesticides. Sediment monitoring is usually conducted in the fall when stream levels are lowest.
Sediment monitoring results are accessible through STORET at

Suggested reading and Web sites for more information on sediments:


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