State warns local governments to prepare for drought
by Jack Latta
FRANKFORT – As drought tightens its grip on the Commonwealth, Kentucky Emergency Management encourages local officials to make plans for continued dry, hot weather and possible water conservation efforts. Ninety Kentucky counties are currently classified as experiencing moderate to severe drought.
The state’s Drought Mitigation and Response Advisory Council authorizes the creation of a special task force, the Drought and Water Emergency Team (DWE), when the state is experiencing significant drought conditions. The DWE, which includes officials from Kentucky Emergency Management, Environmental Protection, Division of Water, Public Health and the Department of Agriculture, met Monday to discuss the current drought situation and long range effects it may have on the water supply around Kentucky.
Water levels in rivers and lakes are near historic lows, particularly for this early in the year. Although water supplies are adequate at this time, if the current drought continues, officials are concerned the rivers and reservoirs providing Kentuckians water may be unable to meet the higher demands due to the extended heat and dry conditions. Of particular concern are individuals with private wells and communities, which historically experience water shortages during drought conditions.
John Heltzel, director of KYEM, encouraged county officials to consider the longer-term impacts of continued dry weather.
“At this point there are no significant water shortages, but local officials would be wise to consider the reliability of their water sources and to make contingency plans if drought threatens those supplies,” said Heltzel.
State officials also encourage private citizens to be proactive and implement personal water conservation measures, such as taking shorter showers, avoiding washing cars, or watering lawns during the coolest parts of the day.
Drought-related conditions in Kentucky began in March, with abnormally high temperatures and lower than normal rainfall, and those conditions have continued this summer. Sixty-six Kentucky counties are now classified under Level 1 drought, with moderate to severe drought conditions, while 24 counties in the west are under the more-severe Level 2 classification.
If you or someone you know needs assistance due to the excessive heat or water shortage, contact your local emergency management director. Contact information is available on the KYEM website, http://kyem.ky.gov/teams/Documents/County%20EM%20Directors%20Contact.pdf .
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