Environment

A new board to develop strategies for agricultural water use in Kentucky is closer to its first meeting.

The Kentucky Water Resources Board was created during this year’s General Assembly. The board was formed to provide state regulators with recommendations on water use efficiency, as well as develop a water conservation strategy for the state’s agricultural sector.

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles supported the legislation and will serve on the newly-formed board. He says water is one of Kentucky’s greatest resources, and the board will focus on making sure the resource is managed responsibly into the future.

“I’m excited that Kentucky is playing a proactive role,” Quarles said. “We’re not reacting to a problem, we’re trying to get out in front of it so we can better align the needs of Kentuckians and balance those with production, agriculture and other industries.”

Quarles said there’s a lot that still unknown about Kentucky’s groundwater resources — like underground aquifers. He said most of the commonwealth’s farmers rely on rainfall, but increasingly more are tapping into aquifers for crop irrigation.

Along with understanding what resources are available, Quarles said more research on weather is necessary. The two extremes — heavy rainfall and drought — are becoming more common in Kentucky as the climate changes, and both affect farmers.

“Weather obviously is an unpredictable aspect of farming and agriculture, but to better understand it, we need more local data,” Quarles said. “Which is why we have invested in Mesonet systems across Kentucky, which allow us to gather more data to analyze so we can better understand our weather and climate issues.”

The legislation stipulates that the board be made up of nine voting members, including Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary Charles Snavely, Quarles and the dean of the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment.

Earlier this month, Governor Matt Bevin appointed six men to the board: retired government employee and Kentucky Environmental Quality Commission chair Stephen A. Coleman will represent the Kentucky Farm Bureau; farmer Kevin Jeffries of Crestwood will represent the Kentucky Association of Conservation Districts; Kentucky American Water Vice President of Operations Kevin Rogers, who will represent the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce; Lexington attorney Lloyd Cress will represent the Kentucky League of Cities; Bracken County Judge-Executive Earl Bush, who will represent the Kentucky County Judge/Executive Association; and John Dix of Bowling Green, who is the General Manager of the Warren County Water District and will represent the Kentucky Rural Water Association.

Erica Peterson is WFPL's Assignment Editor.