Extreme weather threatening water supply in Central Kentucky

dmoore@herald-leader.comJuly 6, 2012 

  • Watch list

    Here are the 27 counties on the water shortage watch list:

    • Anderson

    • Bourbon

    • Clark

    • Crittenden

    • Estill

    • Fayette

    • Fleming

    • Franklin

    • Garrard

    • Harrison

    • Jessamine

    • Lee

    • Lincoln

    • Madison

    • Mercer

    • Monroe

    • Nicholas

    • Owen

    • Owsley

    • Pendleton

    • Robertson

    • Scott

    • Simpson

    • Warren

    • Webster

    • Whitley

    • Woodford

    Source: Kentucky Division of Water

Jerry Hopkins never had a need for automated sprinklers, but this summer he wished he would've joined his neighbors on Bridgeport Drive in adding the watering system.

As Hopkins, 76, used a hose to soak his impatiens for the second time Friday, he said his water bill has doubled.

"Look at these flowers. The heat took them right down," he said. "It's really been bad."

As temperatures once again soared into the triple digits and the drought continued, the state Energy and Environment Cabinet on Friday announced a water shortage watch for 27 counties, including Fayette and surrounding counties, according to a news release.

A watch means the extreme weather has the "potential to threaten the normal availability of drinking water supply sources," according to the release. Residents living in watch areas should monitor local news for notification from water suppliers on reducing demands for water, the cabinet advised.

State drought coordinator Bill Caldwell said high temperatures combined with precipitation deficits frequently create surges in the demand for water, often exceeding a supplier's ability to meet that demand.

Kentucky American Water, which has three plants providing water to nearly half a million Central Kentucky residents, has said its customers should not be concerned about supply restrictions. Company spokeswoman Susan Lancho reiterated Friday that its customers should not worry, thanks to its most recent water-treatment facility.

Lancho said the company completed the Owen County facility in fall 2010 after research into how best to solve the region's water-deficit issues. It uses a different section of the Kentucky River, which allows the supply of water to balloon by about 20 million gallons.

"That certainly helped tremendously, as the research indicated it would," she said. "It complements the other two plants that we already had. ... The plant is fully operational, and certainly we remain in good shape in terms of being able to serve our customers."

Caldwell, the drought coordinator, said public water suppliers play a vital role in helping specialists monitor the drought's progression.

All Kentuckians who rely on wells or other small sources of water should avoid excessive use and report losses of water supply to their county health departments, Caldwell said. He said all Kentuckians should prepare to make adjustments to their water use.

"Water suppliers in the 27-county watch area and throughout the state should closely monitor their supply sources and notify the Division of Water if water shortages occur," Caldwell said.

State climatologist Stuart Foster described the extreme heat, coupled with the lack of rainfall, as "a one-two punch." The persistence of current conditions, he said, lead to comparisons to some of the worst-ever droughts, in 1988 and the 1930s, he said.

"An exceptionally dry June throughout the state coupled with some record-high temperatures over the past week have caused drought conditions to intensify and spread eastward to cover most of Kentucky," Foster said.

In the western part of the state, the drought already has reduced corn growth significantly, said Tom Priddy, University of Kentucky agricultural meteorologist. Ponds for irrigation and livestock watering are running low, and the timing of the conditions could prove to be devastating for the summer.

"Western and central locations may be near the point where rain would provide little benefit for corn and soybean growth, development and yield," Priddy said.

Daniel Moore: (859) 231-3344.Twitter: @heraldleader.

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service