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Energy and Environment Cabinet

Kentucky Division of Water

Division of Water
Watershed Management Monitoring and Assessment

The Kentucky Division of Water (DOW) monitors Kentucky’s water and collects data to determine designated use support as defined by the state's water quality standards regulations. This is core component 2 in the basin management cycle Watershed Management Framework. We incorporate the watershed cycle to ensure that the entire state is sampled every five years by rotating through the various watershed basins. Each basin is intensively monitored once every five years.

DOW monitoring programs include:
(1) biological, water quality and bacteriological sampling at 70 long-term sites statewide, called ambient stations.
(2) water quality and bacteriological monitoring at rotating watershed locations.
(3) a reference reach biological program to determine least-impaired conditions.
(4) nutrient and trophic status determination of publicly owned reservoirs (lakes monitoring).
(5) fish tissue sampling.
(6) a random, statistically-based biological survey of wadeable streams, called probabilistic monitoring.
(7) monitoring of nonpoint pollution sources and results of best management practices (BMP) implementation.
(8) monitoring for total maximum daily load (TMDL) development.
Environmental monitoring for two rounds of the five-year watershed cycle were completed in 2007 with work in the Big Sandy/Little Sandy/Tygarts basin management unit. The work in these first two watershed cycles focused on obtaining a snapshot of conditions of Kentucky's waters for the first time, especially wadeable streams. Most local, state and federal agencies in Kentucky with monitoring responsibilities cooperated with the watershed monitoring program. Some agencies simply provided their data and carried on monitoring as usual. Other agencies revised their sampling programs, and even sampling methods, for best fit with the watershed monitoring plan. 

DOW used data obtained in the first rotating watershed cycle to determine designated use support as defined by the state's water quality standards regulations and to identify specific problems that need to be addressed. Use support assessments were made for aquatic life, primary contact recreation (swimming), secondary contact recreation (partial body contact recreation), fish consumption and domestic water supply. Often the stream or reservoir segments were assessed for one use, especially aquatic life use or primary contact recreation use, but sometimes segments were assessed for two or more uses.

As expected in first-time monitoring, data from the first cycle revealed numerous problems. Waters determined to be impaired through in-stream monitored data were placed on the 303(d) list for TMDL development. Impaired waters from the first four of five basin management units (BMU) were placed on Kentucky's 2004 303(d) list, which was approved by Region 4 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in August 2005. The 2006 303(d) list was approved by EPA in July 2007 and includes the fifth BMU.

The objective of the second cycle of the rotating watershed plan (2003-2007) was to obtain more baseline data with an emphasis on those water bodies and segments not fully supporting one or more designated use. The DOW Water Quality Branch is in the process of scoping the impaired watersheds to verify particular pollutants and identify their specific sources. Once those basic elements are identified, data collection and analysis will determine the total maximum daily load (TMDL) for each particular pollutant. Most TMDLs developed so far focus primarily on pathogen concerns.

Much of the baseline biological data is collected through the probability biosurvey and targeted ambient biological monitoring programs. The probability biosurvey program provides a broad understanding of the overall biological and water quality conditions on both a basin and state level. Targeted ambient biological monitoring allows DOW to focus intensified data collection efforts on a particular event and/or locale, such as in the case of a toxic spill and its impact on a particular watershed.

In 2006, DOW adopted the Integrated Report format per EPA guidance. This format helps maintain a balance between 305(b) assessed water resources and that subpopulation of water resources that are in less-than-full support of one or more uses and are included in the 303(d) list. It also provides a convenient categorization of those monitored and assessed waters in the Commonwealth and easier tracking of 303(d) listed waters and segments from the listing process through approved TMDL development. Water quality reports to Congress may be found at: 305(b) Reports to Congress.


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