Water Quality

Water Quality Information

The KDOW Water Quality Branch is responsible for monitoring and assessing the water quality of the Commonwealth’s streams, rivers, lakes, and wetlands.  The branch develops and reviews water quality standards, classifies surface waters for designated uses (e.g., cold water aquatic habitat and outstanding state resource waters), reports on the state’s water quality in the 305(b) Integrated Report, and creates Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) documents.

Branch staff also serve as scientific advisors for the Division of Water on emerging water quality issues and the review of technical and scientific reports and data.

Link to the KDOW Water Quality webpage.

Kentucky’s Water Health Guide


Kentucky’s Water Health Guide is a summary of the current and historic conditions, activities, trends and impacts on the health of the rivers and streams that flow through the Commonwealth.

This report describes the natural conditions of the streams and lakes in Kentucky, such as the types of rocks and soils, the land features, the types of vegetation, the quality of the water and how it moves.  It also describes the human activities and influences, such as: building and maintenance of homes, businesses, and industries; raising of crops and livestock; treatment of human waste; recreational activities; timber cutting; mining; construction and maintenance of water lines, sewer lines, roads, pipelines, and other types of infrastructure that support human populations.

All of these conditions and activities have an effect on the water that moves over and through the land as it drains into the streams and rivers.  This determines the quality of the water and influences the health of the waterways.  This report provides information about these influences and the water quality in Kentucky.

Click on Kentucky’s Water Health Guide to learn about all those topics and so much more!

The mission of the Watershed Management Branch is to protect and restore the beneficial uses of the waters of the Commonwealth by managing water quality and quantity, facilitating stewardship and promoting cooperation among stakeholders.

Link to KDOW’s Watershed webpage to learn more about the basin watershed planning areas near you.

Environmental Markets and Stream Barrier Removal: An Exploration of Opportunities to Restore Freshwater Connectivity Through Existing Mitigation Programs

The Nature Conservancy

October 2017

American waterways bear the effects of more than 100 years of heavy and widespread development.  As a result, less than 2% of U.S. Rivers are free-flowing—constrained by dams, levees and road crossings and other obstructions.  The aim of this paper is to explore opportunities provided by existing regulatory programs in the U. S. to improve stream health through the removal of these barriers to aquatic connectivity. The aim of this paper is to explore opportunities provided by existing regulatory programs to improve stream health through the removal of barriers to aquatic connectivity, such as dams, culverts, road crossing, and other structures that obstruct stream channels.  The paper concludes that a vibrant “environmental market” for barrier removal can be supported by existing regulatory programs and lays out recommendations for how to stimulate this market.  For more information and to download this report, click here.

New EPA Tool Helps Communities Access More Than $10 Billion in Water Infrastructure Financing

July 26, 2017

New EPA tool gives communities access to information and financing opportunities that will help improve water quality and protect public health 

The EPA is launching the Water Finance Clearinghouse, a web‐based portal to help communities make informed financing decisions for their drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure needs. The Clearinghouse provides communities with a searchable database with more than $10 billion in water funding sources and over 550 resources to support local water infrastructure projects.  It consolidates and expands upon existing EPA-supported databases to create a one-stop-shop for all community water finance needs.  The Water Finance Clearinghouse was developed by EPA’s Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center, an information and assistance center that provides financing information to help local decision makers make informed decisions for drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure to reach their public health and environmental goals.

Many communities around the country have aging or inadequate water infrastructure: each year approximately 240,000 main breaks occur while elsewhere billions of gallons of raw sewage are discharged into local surface waters from aging conveyance systems.  Communities increasingly need efficient access to up-to-date water finance information to rehabilitate or replace their water infrastructure.  EPA’s new Water Finance Clearinghouse meets this need.

The Water Finance Clearinghouse gives local decision makers an opportunity to search for available funding sources for water infrastructure as well as resources (such as reports, webpages, and webinars) on financing mechanisms and approaches that can help communities access capital to meet their water infrastructure needs. State, federal, local, and foundation funding sources and resources on public-private partnerships, asset management practices, revenue models, and affordability approaches are included in the Clearinghouse.

The Water Finance Clearinghouse is updated in real-time, following a crowdsourcing model.  States, federal agencies, and other water sector stakeholders have the ability to suggest edits and new resources or funding options at any time through the Contributor Portal.  Stakeholders can use this interactive feature to manage how their programs and initiatives are displayed in the Clearinghouse.

More information on the Clearinghouse, visit:  https://www.epa.gov/waterfinancecenter/water-finance-clearinghouse.

MS4 permit writers …

June 2017

Do you want to know which Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permits have provisions for pesticides, metals, mercury, pH, temperature, oil and grease, trash, DDT, PCBs, marine debris, acid mine drainage, nutrients, sediment, pathogens, dissolved oxygen, or chloride?  EPA has released a new compendium of MS4 permits that include water quality-based requirements for specific pollutant parameters that are consistent with approved Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) and protecting designated uses.

EPA reviewed existing state and EPA permits and identified different ways of implementing TMDLs through quantitative requirements or pollutant-specific management measures, or a combination of both.  EPA gleaned examples of how permitting authorities measured progress of implementation of water quality-based requirements through review and approval of implementation plans, monitoring/modeling, and reporting requirements.  EPA also include examples of water quality-based requirements related to discharges to impaired waters without approved TMDLs.

This compendium is third in the MS4 Permit Compendium series.  These compendia feature examples from existing MS4 permits of clear, specific and measurable requirements:

Check out the new compendium for examples of how these pollutants are addressed in MS4 permits.

Nationwide Permits to Be Renewed by Division of Water

April 5, 2017

Every five years, the United States Army Corps’ of Engineers (USACE) issues a series of general Nationwide Permits (NWPs) to authorize federally permitted activities under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899.

These general permits are used for smaller projects that are determined to cause minimal environmental impacts.  The current Nationwide Permits expired on March 18, 2017.  The USACE issued and finalized new NWPs on January 6, 2017 that went into effect on March 19, 2017.  The new NWPs will expire on March 18, 2022.  Federal regulation 33 CFR §330.4(c) states that “401 water quality certification pursuant to section 401 of the Clean Water Act, or waiver thereof, is required prior to the issuance or reissuance of NWPs authorizing activities which may result in a discharge into waters of the United States”.

In response, the Kentucky Division of Water (DOW) issued corresponding general certifications to these NWPs.  The Water Quality Certification Section (WQC) at the DOW issues WQCs in accordance with Section 401 of the CWA.  The 401 Section of the CWA authorizes states and tribes to certify that the USACE 404 and Section 10 permits will comply with applicable water quality standards.

The commonwealth of Kentucky has three options with all the NWPs.

  1. Certify as is, meaning that the conditions that need to be met for DOW’s 401 WQC program are the same as the USACE’s NWPs.
  2. Certify the NWPs with conditions, meaning that the commonwealth of Kentucky has additional conditions to qualify for the NWP and/or criteria that must be met, on top of the conditions listed by the USACE NWP.
  3. Deny a NWP.  This means that an individual 401 WQC will be required for all projects under that NWP.

Limited changes were made to Division’s NWPs.

  • NWP 12 Utility Line Backfill and Bedding, NWP 14 Linear Transportation Projects, and NWP 37 Emergency Watershed Protection and Rehabilitation had conditions that were modified for clarity, but that do not change the purpose or applicability of the condition.
  • NWP 12 Utility Line Backfill and Bedding and NWP 14 Linear Transportation Projects were modified to include a condition stating that “crossings must be constructed in a manner that does not impede natural water flow”, in order to prevent stream obstruction and impoundment.
  • NWP 23 Approved Categorical Exclusions was modified to include language to clarify what can qualify for this permit, as well as, adding a condition that the project must not impact more than ½ acre of wetland to be consistent with other NWPs.  We also added language from the USACE’s NWP 23 to clarify what projects may be included.
  • One condition was added to the General Conditions for the State of KY:
    • Projects requiring in-stream stormwater detention/retention basins shall require individual water quality certifications in order to align with KPDES requirements.

Link to:

Updated Tool: EPA updates EJSCREEN

Summer 2017

EJSCREEN is an environmental justice mapping and screening tool that provides a nationally consistent dataset and approach for combining environmental and demographic indicators.  EJSCREEN has just been updated with some important new enhancements:

  • Water indicator has been improved to show water bodies potentially impacted by toxicity and water pollution
  • Municipal level boundaries have been added
  • New and improved layers on schools and public housing have been added
  • All environmental and demographic indicators have been updated with the most recently available data

Learn more about EJSCREEM on EPA’s website.

Incorporating Environmental Justice into Regulatory Efforts (2017)

EPA recently issued its first-ever Technical Guidance for Assessing Environmental Justice in Regulatory Analysis. This guidance represents a significant step towards ensuring the impacts of EPA regulations on vulnerable populations are understood and considered in the decision-making process.  The EJ Technical Guidance improves our ability to perform some of the most important work we do. Better integrating environmental justice in EPA’s core regulatory function is essential to ensure that all Americans, regardless of their race, ethnicity, or income level, have access to clean water, clean air, and healthy communities.

EPA releases Route to Resilience Tool

April 2017

Maintaining and repairing aging drinking water infrastructure remains a significant challenge for the water sector.  Utilities must be able to increase their readiness and resilience to potential all-hazard incidents and adapt to future hazards that may impact their ability to provide safe and clean drinking water.

EPA is releasing the Route to Resilience (RtoR) tool that will help small and medium sized drinking water and wastewater utilities learn more about becoming resilient to all-hazards such as floods, tornadoes, hurricanes and contamination incidents.  The interactive desktop application guides utilities through 5 stops along the Route to Resilience — Assess, Plan, Train, Respond, and Recover. RtoR also provides utilities with a custom report that highlights products and tools that will help utilities on their path to resilience.

To download the tool, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/waterresilience/route-resilience-drinking-water-and-wastewater-utilities.

EPA Survey Shows $271 Billion Needed for Nation’s Wastewater Infrastructure

January 13, 2016

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a survey showing that $271 billion is needed to maintain and improve the nation’s wastewater infrastructure, including the pipes that carry wastewater to treatment plants, the technology that treats the water, and methods for managing stormwater runoff.  The survey is a collaboration between EPA, states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and other U.S. territories. To be included in the survey, projects must include a description and location of a water quality-related public health problem, a site-specific solution, and detailed information on project cost.

Adequate wastewater infrastructure plays a vital role in the health of streams, rivers, and lakes, where discharged wastewater and stormwater runoff often end up. Wastewater infrastructure must also become more resilient to the impacts of climate change, including sea level rise, stronger and more frequent storms, flooding, and drought.  Wastewater infrastructure improvements also support healthy economies. Construction projects create good-paying jobs, and where new facilities are built, workers are needed to operate and maintain them. Upgraded infrastructure results in cleaner water, which is essential for many businesses and sectors of the economy.

EPA launched the Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center in January 2015 to work with states and communities to identify innovative financing strategies for drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure. The center recently selected regional Environmental Finance Centers to help communities across the country develop sustainable “how-to-pay” solutions to meet environmental goals. This financial expertise and technical assistance helps communities make informed funding decisions for resilient infrastructure projects that best meet local needs.  In addition, EPA offers financial assistance to address the types of infrastructure needs covered in the survey.

The Clean Water State Revolving Fund has provided more than $111 billion in low-interest loans since its inception in 1987, with $5.8 billion in FY 2015 alone. Grant funding is available through the Alaska Native Villages and Rural Communities program, the Clean Water Indian Set-Aside, and the U.S.-Mexico Border Water Infrastructure program.

The $271 billion is primarily for projects needed within five years. The survey reported the following infrastructure needs:

  • Secondary wastewater treatment: $52.4 billion to meet secondary treatment standards. Secondary treatment uses biological processes to meet the minimum level of treatment required by law.
  • Advanced wastewater treatment: $49.6 billion to provide upgrades so treatment plants can attain a level of treatment more protective than secondary treatment. Advanced treatment may also treat nonconventional or toxic pollutants such as nitrogen, phosphorus, ammonia or metals.
  • Conveyance system repair: $51.2 billion to rehabilitate and repair conveyance systems.
  • New conveyance systems: $44.5 billion to install new sewer collection systems, interceptor sewers and pumping stations.
  • Combined sewer overflow correction: $48 billion to prevent periodic discharges of mixed stormwater and untreated wastewater during wet-weather events.
  • Stormwater management programs: $19.2 billion to plan and implement structural and nonstructural measures to control polluted runoff from storm events.
  • Recycled water distribution: $6.1 billion for conveyance and further treatment of wastewater for reuse.

Visit http://www.epa.gov/cwns for more information on the report.

EPA Approves of Kentucky’s 303(d) List of Surface Water

November 22, 2016

On Dec. 4, 2015, the KDOW submitted the 2014 Integrated Report to Congress on the Condition of Water Resources in Kentucky, Volume I and Volume II to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Volume II of the 2014 Integrated Report to Congress, 303(d) List of Surface Waters, requires approval from the E.P.A. The Division is pleased to announce on October 13, 2016, the E.P.A approved Kentucky’s 2014 Section 303(d) list.

The 2014 Integrated Report to Congress on the Condition of Water Resources in Kentucky, Volume I and Volume II is located on the Division’s website water.ky.gov.

EPA’s National Lakes Assessment Finds Nutrient Pollution is Widespread in Lakes

December 8, 2016

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released the results of a national assessment showing that nutrient pollution is widespread in the nation’s lakes, with 4 in 10 lakes suffering from too much nitrogen and phosphorus.  Excess nutrients can cause algae blooms, lower oxygen levels, degraded habitat for fish and other life, and lower water quality for recreation.  The National Lakes Assessment also found an algal toxin – microcystin – in 39 percent of lakes but below levels of concern.  Low concentrations of the herbicide atrazine were found in 30 percent of lakes.

“America’s lakes and reservoirs provide many environmental and public health benefits; we use lakes for drinking water, energy, food and recreation, and our fish, birds, and wildlife depend on lakes for habitat,” said Joel Beauvais, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Water at EPA.  “The National Lakes Assessment provides us with valuable information to help protect and restore our lakes across the country.”

The assessment is part of a series of National Aquatic Resource Surveys designed to provide information about the condition of water resources in the U.S.  The surveys are conducted in partnership with states and tribes to provide national-scale assessments of the nation’s waters.  An earlier National Lakes Assessment was conducted in 2007, but this latest study is expanded to include smaller lakes and increase the number of lakes assessed.  Lake managers can use the new interactive dashboard to evaluate site-specific information and to explore population-level results.  Conducted on a five-year basis, future lake surveys will help water resource managers assess broad-scale differences in the data and perform trends analysis.

Nutrient pollution is one of America’s most widespread and costly environmental and public health challenges.  EPA is working on many fronts to reduce the severity, extent, and impacts of nutrient pollution in our nation’s lakes and other waters.  These efforts involve overseeing regulatory programs, conducting outreach and engaging partners, providing technical and programmatic support to states, financing nutrient reduction activities, and conducting research and development.  In September, EPA called upon states and stakeholders to intensify their efforts to reduce nutrient pollution in collaboration with EPA.

For more information: https://www.epa.gov/national-aquatic-resource-surveys/nla.

Protecting Drinking Water from Harmful Algal Blooms

August 2016

Algal toxins are a growing problem in the US. Harmful algal blooms (HABs) produce algal toxins that can cause fish kills and contaminate drinking water supplies.  EPA has released a comprehensive strategic plan outlining actions to address algal toxins in drinking water.  Solving this complex challenge to our drinking water will require action at all levels of government and approaches that are collaborative, innovative, and persistent.

The KDOW continues to monitor Kentucky’s waters for Harmful Algal Blooms

KAMM mailing address: KAMM, PO Box 1016, Frankfort, KY 40602-1016.  

Have questions, contact us at help@kymitigation.org.