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Kentucky Water Science Center

Program Highlights

If additional information is available, the program's title will be an active link.

Hydrologic Surveillance Section Data Program (Mike Griffin, Data Chief)

The USGS Kentucky Water Science Center (WSC) currently maintains a real-time data collection network consisting of 181 surface-water stations, 83 precipitation gages, 49 water-quality stations, and 1 ground-water well where continuous stage, streamflow, rainfall information, chemical parameters such as water temperature, specific conductance, pH, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity, and water levels are collected. All 175 sites are equipped with data-collection platforms which enable their measurements to be broadcasted in near real-time (between 1-4 hours) via satellite. All are presented within the Kentucky Water Science Centerís "Real-Time Data for Kentucky" section of the WSC webpage . This information is used for the assessment of water resources, operation of hydraulic control structures, forecasting, and water-quality measurements. These data may be used for analytical studies and by water managers for planning and design. The Kentucky WSC also maintains five water-quality stations along the main stem of the Ohio River, which are described below in the "National Stream Quality Accounting Network (NASQAN)" program. As a†final component, the USGS maintains two long-term atmospheric deposition stations, which plays an integral part of a nationwide network of more than 200 sites.

National Stream Quality Accounting Network [NASQAN] (Angie Crain, Project Chief)

The objectives of NASQAN are to determine the status and trend in water quality of five major river systems of the Nation. Because of the scale of these rivers, these data also provide important information on the off-continent flux of constituents to the world ocean. The USGS Kentucky Science Center operates four NASQAN monitoring stations -  Ohio River at Cannelton Dam at Cannelton, In, Wabash River at New Harmony, In, Tennessee River at Highway 60 near Paducah, Ky, and Ohio River at Dam 53 near Grand Chain, Il. These data populate a portion of a national database of water-quality information, which is used in broad federal and state planning, management, protection, and assessment programs. Recently compiled NASQAN pesticide synthesis data indicate that Kentucky is one of the most significant sources of pesticide loading to any of the major rivers in the Nation.

National Atmospheric Deposition Stations (Mike Griffin, Project Chief)

The National Atmospheric Deposition Program/National Trends Network (NADP/NTN) is a nationwide network of precipitation monitoring sites. The network is a cooperative effort between many different groups, including the State Agricultural Experiment Stations, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Louisville and Jefferson County Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD), and numerous other governmental and private entities. The purpose of the network is to collect data on the chemistry of precipitation for monitoring of geographical and temporal long-term trends. The precipitation at each station is collected weekly according to strict clean-handling procedures. It is then sent to the Central Analytical Laboratory where it is analyzed for hydrogen (acidity as pH), sulfate, nitrate, ammonium, chloride, and base cations (such as calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium). The Kentucky Water Science Center operates two sites in the state - Clark State Fish Hatchery located in Rowan County and Seneca Park located in Jefferson County.

Ohio River Alluvial Aquifer (Mike Unthank, Project Chief)

In cooperation with the Louisville Water Company (LWC), the USGS collects ground-water level and quality data and provides analysis involving stream-aquifer interaction along the Ohio River. This study will aid the LWC in developing and installing a well-infiltration system along the Ohio River.

Sediment Laboratory (Aimee Downs, Lab Supervisor)

The lab performs suspended-sediment concentrations and suspended-sediment sand-fine breaks analyses for project personnel from 23 USGS Districts. These analyses can be used to estimate silt transportation and deposition in streams, rivers, and reservoirs. The Quality-Assurance Plan for the Analysis of Fluvial Sediment by the Northeastern Region, Kentucky District Sediment Lab [OFR 2005-1230] is available as a PDF file.

Survey of Abandoned Oil and Gas Wells - Ft. Knox (Mike Unthank, Project Chief)

Abandoned and unrecorded wells may act as conduits for the contamination of ground-water supplies by oil and gas field brines and other pollutants. The casings of abandoned wells eventually develop leaks, which, if not properly plugged, can allow pollutants to reach freshwater aquifers that supply drinking water. Such is the situation in the Fort Knox well field near West Point, Kentucky. Abandoned oil and gas wells provide a route for deep formation brines to migrate upward into the shallow alluvial deposits and contaminate the water table aquifer. Many of the drinking water supply wells for Fort Knox have chloride concentrations in excess of maximum contaminant levels of 250 mg/l with some as high as 800 mg/l. Results from a previous ground-water sampling program confirmed that abandoned oil and gas wells are most likely the source of brine contamination in the Fort Knox well field. (Photo gallery of USGS sampling and wells)

Water-Use Data for Kentucky (Aimee Downs, Project Chief)

The U.S. Geological Survey has compiled and disseminated estimates of water use for the Nation at 5-year intervals since 1950. The National Water-Use Information Program, in cooperation with the states, collects reliable and uniform information of the sources, uses, and dispositions of water in the United States. This information can be used to document trends in water use, provide decision makers with current information to develop or defend water-supply policies, assess the effectiveness of alternative water-management practices, and make projections of future demands.

Past Program Highlights

Source Water Assessment (Randy Ulery, Project Chief)

The Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments of 1996 require that each state prepare a source water assessment program for all public water supplies. The primary objectives of this project are to (1) provide the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) Water Utilities Division staff with GIS and other databases and software tools capable of assessing some 17,000 public-supply wells and some 550 public-supply surface water intakes, and (2) assist TCEQ in conducting initial assessments for these water supplies.†

Spatial Assessment (Pete Cinotto, Project Chief)

Statewide watershed assessment, management, and planning requires reliable, accurate estimates of geographic information including drainage area, land use, and other basin characteristics as well as estimates of streamflow, water quality characteristics, and water-availability data. To meet these needs, a comprehensive set of GIS spatial datasets and models are required. The project objective requirements will be done by 1) source-water assessment, 2) Streamstats program, 3) water-budget analysis, 4) statewide precipitation model, and 5) statistical assessment of low flow.

Ground-Water Resources Program Karst Hydrology Initiative (Chuck Taylor, Project Chief)

This project is a multidisciplinary investigation designed to: (1) collect and synthesize regional karst hydrogeologic systems using GIS methods, (2) map and characterize karst features in major karst hydrogeologic settings, and (3) develop new or improved methods needed to achieve better understanding of conduit-dominated karst hydrology, with special emphasis in karst water budgets and recharge processes. All project activities are focused on the major karst hydrogeologic settings and aquifers within the Interior Low Plateaus region.†All project work will be conducted in the Interior Low Plateaus physiographic region of the central United States. The karst areas of this physiographic region encompass over 69,000 mi2 and includes parts of Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee. The region includes some of the largest contiguous geographic areas of karst topography in the continental United States. Major karst aquifers are located in seven distinct hydrogeologic settings in the region and are developed in limestones of Mississippian age. Other subregional karst aquifers are developed in limestones of Lower-to-Middle Ordovician age.

Maxey Flats (Doug Zettwoch, Project Chief)

In cooperation with the Kentucky Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Cabinet - Division of Waste Management, the USGS has an ongoing, multi-discipline project which includes the collection of water level, streamflow, and† precipitation data to aid the State in monitoring this low-level radioactive waste-disposal site, located in Fleming County, Kentucky. Currently data is collected continuously from 15 wells and 2 surface-water sites, and quarterly from 2 wells. Current and historical data is available for retrieval from the USGS Kentucky NWISWeb

Estimates of Flow Duration in Kentucky Streams (Mike Unthank, Project Chief)

Water-resource managers, planners, and regulators need reliable, accurate streamflow statistics. These statistics are not directly calculable at most locations because of the sparseness of the streamflow-gaging network; nevertheless, information is needed at ungaged locations for management, planning, and regulatory purposes. Some statistics, such as peak flows (Hodgkins and Martin, 2003), mean annual flows (Martin, 2002), and low flows (Ruhl and Martin, 1991), can now be calculated at ungaged locations using regression equations and other methods. These statistics serve many purposes, however, additional information needed to describe flow regimes, construct load-duration curves (LDC) for (NPS) pollutants, and characterize pollutant sources would be extremely beneficial, especially to those involved in the development of Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for streams. One method for providing the information needed for these activities is through calculation of the flow-duration curve (FDC). FDCs specify the percentage of time that a particular flow is equaled or exceeded using daily discharges. FDCs can then be used to calculate LDCs for NPS pollutants, which can assist in the TMDL development process. LDCs allow water quality to be studied over a range of flow regimes rather than a single flow quantity.

Pennyroyal Nutrients (Angie Crain, Project Chief)

Additional nutrient data is required in the Pennyroyal bioregion of Kentucky to adequately evaluate the cause-response relations with nutrient concentrations and diatom/macroinvertebrate community structure. The USGS will collect nutrient samples from 22 wadable streams in the Pennyroyal ecoregion of Kentucky, and assess the relation between nutrient concentrations and the biological community structure in this ecoregion. Parameters to be collected include total phosphorus, total Kjeldahl nitrogen, ammonia, and nitrite plus nitrate. Nutrient samples primarily will be collected during ambient and low-flow conditions; however, at least one nutrient sample will be collected during wet-weather conditions. Flow measurements will be made 2 to 3 times at the selected sites during high and low-flow conditions. If possible, rating curves will be used to estimate flow at the selected sampling sites.

Floyds Fork (Angie Crain, Project Chief)

The USGS Kentucky Water Science Center will provide data and modeling analysis to assist in the development of a pathogen Total Maximum Daily Load [TMDL] for the Floyds Fork Watershed. Additional project objectives include collecting nutrient and suspended sediment data in the Floyds Fork watershed to provide a basis for improved Kentucky SPAtially Referenced Regressions on Watershed Attributes [SPARROW] modeling, and inventory total suspended solids and suspended-sediment concentration data for Kentucky's streams.

Abandoned Landfills (Mike Unthank, Project Chief)

In cooperation with the Kentucky Division of Waste Management, the USGS is investigating the effects of three abandoned landfills on the local water quality. Trigg County Landfill: Previous investigations of the contributing areas of recharge to the city of Cadiz drinking water spring has shown a hydrologic link between sinkholes on the Trigg County Fiscal Court landfill site and the spring. The purpose of this investigation is to review the previous investigations, characterize the hydrogeology of the area, determine the existence of hydrologic continuity between the landfill and the spring, and confirm the distribution of waste and its potential impact on the drinking-water spring.
Bardwell City Landfill: The City of Bardwell wishes to replace its existing water supply well with one on property they own. The proposed site of this well is less than 1500 feet from the waste area of the former Bardwell City Landfill. The purpose of this investigation is to define the location and character of the waste present, characterize groundwater contamination if present, and determine whether the proposed well location is vulnerable to contamination should groundwater contamination from the former landfill be present.
Owensboro City Landfill: In the past, the City of Owensboro has done considerable work to close its landfill and in consequence has lowered the risk level of its landfill. However, there is an information gap relative to water levels within the waste areas and shallow groundwater flow paths. The purpose of this investigation is to define the location and character of the waste present,† characterize groundwater contamination if present, determine the extent of contamination if present, and evaluate the monitoring network and add additional sampling and monitoring points if necessary.†

Bridge Scour

In cooperation with the National Cooperative Highway Research Program and the Federal Highways Transportation Department, the USGS collects and analyzes data relating bridge failure to scour and sediment transport.

Climate Data Generator

Accurate spatial and temporal precipitation and temperature data are paramount to provide consistent watershed modeling results and water budget estimates. Most watershed modelers admit to this weakness and admit that this is the weakest or least-certain component of a watershed modeling effort. The primary objective of this study is to develop a climate generator that will be implemented within a larger study - Kentucky Watershed Information Modeling Portal, a point an click web-based portal for accessing GIS and other watershed modeling data for Kentucky (Commonwealth Office of Technology)- The generator will also be incorporated in the Water Budget Analysis Toolbox (See Water Budget).†

Kentucky Stream Stats (Kenneth Odom, Project Chief)

Planning and other activities associated with watershed and regulatory programs in the State require reliable, accurate estimates of geographic information on drainage area, land use, and other basin characteristics as well as estimates of runoff and water quality characteristics. In cooperation with the Kentucky Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet, Kentucky Division of Water (KDOW), and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KTC), the USGS will develop and implement an interactive GIS tool and database that will allow users to quickly and easily obtain basin characteristics, estimates of nutrient loads, and streamflow statistics for Kentucky streams. Such a tool will deliver watershed planning, assessment, hydrologic design, and permit-review information to any user-selected stream site in Kentucky quickly, but without requiring users to invest heavily in computer technology or advanced knowledge of computer-based geographic or hydrologic analysis.†

Kentucky Water Budget (Kenneth Odom, Project Chief)

The Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection Management Plan 2002-2003 states in the Desired Behavioral Outcomes related to Growth and Development (Outcome 2.2.5) that "by December 31, 2005, the Commonwealth will manage its water supply resources using water budgets prepared for each of Kentucky's major water basins." These major basins are the eight-digit hydrologic units (HUC-8). There are 43 HUC-8 basins in Kentucky averaging over 900 square miles in each area. State-of-the-art GIS, statistical, and hydrological modeling approaches at multiple basin levels will be integrated into the water budget methodology. In cooperation with the Kentucky Division of Water and the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority, the goal is to implement techniques that are simple yet robust to the underlying factors that respond to current conditions and future changes in a basin's water use, land use, or climate variability. The approach would incorporate the effects of all water withdrawals (surface and ground water), wastewater return flows, and the influence of lakes, reservoirs, and related operations including cross-basin diversions and interconnections. The approach will include rigorous quantitative methods to compute and analyze water availability under user-specified current and future conditions. A Statewide water budget approach will be developed as a stand-alone tool.

Little River Basin Water Quality (Angie Crain, Project Chief)

In cooperation with the Kentucky Department of AgricultureóTechnical Branch, the USGS began a 2-year study to collect and analyze pesticide, nutrient, and suspended-sediment data in the Little River Basin (Christian and Trigg) Counties. These data will be analyzed to assess the effects of human and natural factors on the surface- and ground-water resources in study area.

Upper Sinking Creek Basin Water Quality (Angie Crain, Project Chief)

In cooperation with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture-Technical Branch, the USGS began a multi-year study to collect and analyze water-quality data, and develop and apply a rainfall-runoff model in the upper Sinking Creek Basin (Breckinridge, Hardin, and Meade Counties). The study area has a high hydrogeologic sensitivity rating indicating it is highly vulnerable to effects from runoff, because much of the upper portion of the basin in underlain with karst. Results from this study will be analyzed to assess the effects of human and natural factors on the surface- and ground-water resources in the upper portion of the basin.

Water-Quality Trends Analysis (Angie Crain, Project Chief)

In cooperation with the Kentucky Division of Water-Water-Quality Branch, the USGS is analyzing historical water-quality trends for select water-quality constituents in surface water throughout Kentucky Statistical trend analysis techniques such as the seasonal Kendall test or a statistical time-series modeling approach, developed by the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) program will be applied to available discharge and constituent concentrations at selected sites.

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