The Kentucky Division of Water (DOW) has released an update to Kentucky’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy. The plan will prioritize investments and encourage cooperative efforts to decrease excessive nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus that fuel harmful algal blooms (HABs) in rivers, lakes, and streams, and contribute to the Gulf of Mexico “dead zone,” or hypoxic zone off the coasts of Louisiana and Texas.
Pollution and excessive nutrients are a growing water quality concern throughout Kentucky and the U.S. that can impose significant costs to drinking water utilities, lost revenue from recreational tourism, and smaller harvests for fishermen.
Along with 11 other states and five federal agencies which make up the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Hypoxia Task Force (the “Hypoxia Task Force” or HTF), Kentucky has committed to develop a state specific strategy to address nutrients. Kentucky began its initial efforts to reduce nutrient loading to its waterways through the 2014 Nutrient Reduction Strategy (NRS).
The updated plan, which also includes an interactive story map, provides a framework that is tailored to Kentucky’s unique geological, agricultural, and hydrologic landscape, and improves on progress made since 2014. The strategy includes point and non-point source water improvement efforts, education and outreach, monitoring and assessment, local engagement, reporting practices and more.
As part of a data-driven plan to prioritize available resources, more than 40 years of water monitoring data was used to create Nutrient Priority Areas (see map below), which balance the needs of drinking water sources, open water recreation, and areas with greater nutrient concentrations (i.e., high yield watersheds).
As a result, state funding applicants in these Nutrient Priority Areas will rank higher on grant and loan applications through DOW’s 319 Grant Program and Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) Program. Likewise, agriculture proposals will rank higher with the Division of Conservation’s (DOC) State Cost Share Program. Farmer applications may also receive a higher cost share rate for installing conservation practices from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in source water portions of the Nutrient Priority Areas.
New funding sources such as the Gulf Hypoxia Program will build on collaborative progress between DOW, DOC, and NRCS to prevent erosion, improve wastewater treatment, and empower local communities in these priority areas. To maximize water quality improvements, DOW will continue to collaborate with federal, state, and local agencies, universities, citizen groups, and non-profit organizations.
More information on the draft Nutrient Reduction Strategy Update can be found at eec.ky.gov/nutrientreduction, including interactive story maps and actions that minimize nutrient loss.