Water Quality Overview


Drinking Water Grants and Other Financial Resources

EPA  provides a range of financial resources, including grants, made available to support public water systems with enhancing the quality of drinking water and improving public health. The Office of Water has a variety of funding programs available to public water systems.

October as Clean Water Act Month

By proclamation, Governor Andy Beshear has declared the month of October as Clean Water Act Month, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Clean Water Act.




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.


Monitoring Section
The Monitoring Section collects and manages physiochemical and biological data for rivers, streams, and lakes throughout the state. It provides water quality data and reports to inform water quality assessments and public health advisories for fish consumption and water recreation.  

Intensive Survey & Wetlands Section
This section collects and manages physiochemical, biological, physical habitat data from waters throughout the Commonwealth, including wetlands.  Data is collected to support the development and track the progress of water quality improvement plans such as section 319 Watershed Plans, Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) or TMDL Alternatives for 303(d)-listed impairments. Data collected by the section may also be used by other programs within DOW for activities such as water quality standards development or water quality assessments for section 305(b).  The section is also responsible for development of wetland-specific standards and assessment methodology.

TMDL & Program Support Section
The Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) and Program Support Section develops TMDLs and coordinates with DOW branches on related water quality restoration actions (e.g. TMDL Alternative Plans).  The section maintains two inter-related data management systems: the Kentucky Water Assessment Data for Environmental Monitoring (K-WADE) which manages water quality monitoring data and the Kentucky Assessment and TMDL Tracking System (KATTS) which manages information on water quality assessment decisions and the actions being taken to improve water quality in the Commonwealth.  It is also responsible for providing technical assistance, data compilation, and analysis to support water quality assessments and the development and review of water quality standards.


The Watershed Management Branch

The Watershed Management Branch provides leadership for comprehensive planning and analysis of water quality and quantity, on a watershed basis.  The branch coordinates the Watershed Management Framework, through which watersheds are targeted for planning and implementation. The branch also develops and implements nonpoint source pollution control programs, inventories water sources, issues water withdrawal permits and provides technical support for water management planning, including source water protection. The Watershed Management Branch administers the Water Watch program and provides support to the Watershed Watch program, through which citizens across the state monitor stream and lake conditions.

Nonpoint Source and Basin Team Section
The section provides leadership and technical support to the Watershed Management Framework, including the Statewide Watershed Management Framework Steering Committee, seven Basin Teams and sub-watershed task forces throughout the Commonwealth. The section also works to improve widespread public understanding of watersheds; supports citizen involvement in monitoring water bodies by coordinating the Water Watch Program and supports the Watershed Watch organizations.

Water Supply Section
The section provides leadership and technical support for water resource management, especially with regard to water allocations and for integrating water quantity and water quality analyses. This section implements the water supply planning, source water and wellhead protection programs, drought monitoring, water shortage response, and water withdrawal permitting programs; and provides significant support to Water Management Planning, in conjunction with the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority. These programs ensure long-term security for adequate water supplies to the citizens of the Commonwealth, including protecting drinking water sources (Source Water Protection).

Groundwater Section
The section implements a comprehensive groundwater program that manages, enhances and protects the groundwater resources of the Commonwealth for present and future generations through regulation, technical assistance and collection of resource information. This section also implements the groundwater protection plans, water well drillers certification and ambient monitoring network programs.

GIS and Data Analysis Section
The section provides technical support and data analysis, and promotes better decision-making in the Division. Section activities include effectively managing DOW data and databases, improving efficiencies in data acquisition and management, providing and maintaining geospatial data, analyzing Division data, and identifying and developing new tools to improve data accuracy, better communication with the public, and the ability to analyze complex conditions before making a decision. The section has worked to integrate the use of geographic information systems (GIS) into the Division’s workflows. Products include the constantly updated National Hydrography Dataset, Watershed Boundary Dataset, layers, internal and external map viewers and story maps.


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!


Flood Resilience: A Basic Guide for Water and Wastewater Utilities

EPA’s tool, Flood Resilience: A Basic Guide for Water and Wastewater Utilities was designed for small and medium drinking water and utilities and includes interactive worksheets, instructional videos, and flood maps. With a user-friendly layout, embedded videos, and flood maps to guide you, EPA’s Flood Resilience Guide is your one-stop resource to protect your critical assets.

Link to Tool.

Download the EPA Fact Sheet  – Build Flood Resilience at Your Water Utility.


Better Way: An Application for Risk Characterization of HABs on the Ohio River

August 2, 2022

 In 2015, an unprecedented algal bloom in the Ohio River caught many communities by surprise.  Since then, EPA researchers have been working with water quality managers to address a gap in scientific research regarding the ability to predict harmful algal blooms on rivers. 

HAB events on rivers are likely to become increasingly common as climate change pushes towards longer, hotter, drier summers.  As spring showers wash nutrients into the river, an extended hot drought period will cause water to evaporate from the river.  Less water in the river creates a higher concentration of nutrients as well as a slower flow, factors which impact the likelihood of a HAB event.

Beginning in 2018, the team conducted research over the course of three years to create a web-based application that used key factors to predict HABs.  The team developed a multi-pronged approach that modeled risk probabilities for sites along the entire river and included water quality data to help evaluate the model predictions.  The efforts resulted in a real-time HABs risk characterization tool that is now being used and maintained by ORSANCO.

Read about the tool they created to help better understand water quality in the river and prepare for future algal blooms.

Learn More from the EPA

Interactive Map of the Ohio River


Cyanotoxins Preparedness and Response Toolkit

May 2021

EPA posted a Cyanotoxins Preparedness and Response Toolkit (CPRT) online. The CPRT will help EPA’s state and tribal partners prepare for potential harmful algal blooms in freshwater bodies and respond to protect public health.  Cyanobacterial Harmful Algal Blooms (CyanoHABs) can cause fouling of beaches and shorelines, economic and aesthetic losses, taste and odor problems in drinking water, and direct risks to human, fish, and animal health.  The CPRT includes:

  • A template to develop Cyanobacteria/Cyanotoxins Management Plans, including worksheets and checklists to assist before and during a bloom event.
  • Frequently Asked Questions on cyanoHABs, drinking water health advisories, and EPA’s Recommended Recreational Water Quality Criteria or Swimming Advisories for Microcystins and Cylindrospermopsin.
  • Links to key tools relevant to the development of management plans and effective communication during cyanotoxin events.
  • A cyanoHABs incident response questionnaire to use when a cyanotoxins event is suspected or confirmed.
  • A post-incident technical support questionnaire to evaluate the effectiveness of the response.

The resources in the toolkit can be completed electronically, downloaded, and shared.  The CPRT does not cover long-term management actions or the control and mitigation of cyanoHABs.

To learn more about cyanoHABs, visit EPA’s website at: https://www.epa.gov/cyanohabs/cyanotoxins-preparedness-and-response-toolkit-cprt.


EPA Tool Helps Communities Access to Water Infrastructure Financing

July 26, 2017

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

The EPA hosts 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 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. 

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: WFC Home (epa.gov)


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 released a 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.




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

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