Southern Regional Water Program

Research, Extension & Education Water Quality Programs through the Land Grant University System

Pollution Assessment and Prevention in Kentucky

kypap1.gifPollution comes in many forms and results from many causes - roadside litter, improper use of pesticides and fertilizers, failing or inadequate septic systems and/or wastewater treatment facilities, improperly disposed of chemicals or wastes, and runoff from lawns, parking lots, farmland and industrial sites. Through individual commitment and education we can minimize pollution from all sources.

Assessing the risks associated with pollution is an important first step to preventing pollution problems.

Conditions in Kentucky

Under the authority of the Federal Clean Water Act, individual states are required to assess their waters and develop a list of lakes and streams where water quality is impaired. An impaired water body is one whose water quality does not support uses designated by the state such as drinking water, primary contact (swimming), secondary contact (fishing), and aquatic wildlife habitat. The Kentucky Division of Water in the Cabinet for Natural Resources and Environmental Protection is responsible for establishing TMDLs (total maximum daily loads) in Kentucky. The Kentucky Nonpoint Source Assessment 305(b) Report provides information on impaired water bodies in Kentucky. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also provides information on impaired waterbodies in Kentucky.

Under the authority of the Kentucky Agriculture Water Quality Act passed by the Kentucky State Legislature in 1994, all agricultural operations with ten or more contiguous acres must develop a site-specific agriculture water quality plan, using approved best management practices, by October 23, 2001. The primary objective of the Kentucky Agriculture Water Quality Act is to prevent the pollution of the waters and streams of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. As of December 31, 2001, over 54,000 individual agriculture water quality plan certifications have been filed in Kentucky's county conservation district offices.

Resources and Programs

The University of Kentucky (UK) provides research, education, and extension resources to assist state and federal agencies, business and industry, and communities and individual citizens in addressing water quality concerns. These programs are designed to provide information for specific audiences, such as farmers, homeowners, and youth.

Extension Outreach

The Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service develops and delivers programs designed to provide educational outreach related to pollution assessment and prevention to all 120 counties of the state. Educational and promotional packets to promote May as “Kentucky Water Awareness Month” are distributed to all County Extension Agents each spring. This outreach enables basic and applied research from universities and from sources throughout the world be interpreted and delivered to clientele interested in environmental issues.

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture's Rinse and Return Program is operated at the county level by a committee coordinated by the County Extension Agent for agriculture. During the past ten years, this program has collected and recycled 799,214 pounds of plastic pesticide containers in 107 counties. During the past five years, 933 rural Kentuckians have participated in the abandoned chemical collection program resulting in 286,965 pounds of potentially hazardous pesticides being collected for recycling or destruction.

The Cooperative Extension Service and the UK Department of Forestry, in partnership with the Kentucky Division of Forestry, Kentucky Division of Water and Kentucky Forest Industries Association, sponsors the Kentucky Master Logger Program. This program has instructed and certified more than 4,800 loggers in Kentucky as Master Loggers, in compliance with the Kentucky Forestry Conservation Act of 2000. As a result, these loggers are proficient in preventing pollution during forestry operations.

The Kentucky Environment and Natural Resource Issues Task Force, through its Nutrient Management Focus Group, has trained over 400 professional educators and advisors in animal manure and commercial fertilizer nutrient management requirements. This training is open to county agents, Natural Resource Conservation Service field staff, conservation district field staff, certified crop advisors, and private vendors. These leaders will guide farmers in developing required nutrient management plans for agricultural operations. The group has also produced a general publication and educational video.

kypap3.gifThe Ky*A*Syst and Ky*A*Syst for the Home programs use self-assessment as a tool to identify pollution potential from many possible sources. These self-assessments give farmers and homeowners an ideal opportunity to voluntarily evaluate activities or conditions that may be a risk to water quality and to take proactive steps to reduce those risks. Farmers and other residents in Kentucky have received information about Ky*A*Syst and Ky*A*Syst for the Home through field days and other educational programs.

The Master Gardener Program, conducted in many counties in Kentucky through the Cooperative Extension Service, provides information on determining appropriate amounts of pesticides and fertilizers to use on lawns and gardens. The program encourages environmental stewardship so that productivity is enhanced while runoff of pesticides and fertilizers is diminished.

Pesticide Applicator Certification is a legal requirement for persons applying restricted-use pesticides in any situation and for those individuals who apply general-use products in a commercial situation. The University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service conducts training courses for the certification of private and commercial pesticide applicators across the state.


The Kentucky PRIDE Program was initiated in 40 counties in Southern and Eastern Kentucky. PRIDE (Personal Responsibility in a Desirable Environment) was created to focus people’s attention on the pollution problems in the region, and to find creative solutions to clean up and prevent pollution. The Kentucky Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Cabinet is cooperating with U.S. Congressmen to bring together like-minded Kentucky leaders to revive our streams and waterways, protect kypap5.gifour water supply, and preserve Kentucky's natural beauty. Extension Agents in the target counties have worked with PRIDE personnel to implement a number of educational programs and to organize clean-up events and activities. The program awards grants for local clean-up activities, creates and distributes educational materials, and coordinates leaders at all levels of public and private areas toward this common clean-up cause. The program is currently expanding in the state, with the formation of Bluegrass Pride in Central Kentucky.

The Kentucky Ag. Water Quality Plan Web Version 1.0 was developed by the Cooperative Extension Service to generate a list of suggested water quality Best Management Practices that can form the framework for Ag. Water Quality Plans required by the Kentucky Water Quality Act for all agricultural operations with ten or more contiguous acres.

Scientific Research

Scientific research is the basis for development of new technologies to improve pollution assessment and prevention. Researchers at Land Grant Universities work to develop these new technologies and evaluate their economic benefits. The University of Kentucky Water Quality Research and Education website has information about research that assesses water quality conditions across the state and which wqre.gifinvestigates the influence of agricultural practices on water quality in Kentucky. Some examples of major research efforts in Kentucky include:

A research project entitled, “Assessment of Potential Nitrate and Pesticide Impacts on Bedrock Aquifers in Upland Agricultural Settings of the Western Kentucky Coal Field and Jackson Purchase Area,” evaluates the impact of past and present agricultural land use and the fate of agricultural contaminants on ground-water resources in a typical Western Kentucky Coal Field upland setting.

Optimizing Vegetated Filter Strip Performance to Impede Contaminant Transport from Agricultural Land evaluates the performance of Natural Resources Conservation Service-recommended standards for density and species of plant used in grass filters. The project also examines the interactive effects of soil moisture conditions and rainfall intensity and duration on waste runoff, infiltration, and filter strip performance.

Impact of Weed Management Regimes on Herbicide Concentration in Shallow Groundwaters of the Western Pennyrile and Western Coalfields compares the occurrence of herbicides commonly used by Kentucky's grain producers in shallow groundwater. Herbicides were applied to the soil surface after corn or soybean planting and to crop and weed foliage about one month after corn and soybean planting.

College and University Education

Education is critical to develop the human resources necessary to address current and future water quality issues. In addition to the Cooperative Extension Service and research programs, relevant training is available in several departments at the University of Kentucky:

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