In 2000, the Kentucky General Assembly passed legislation that required area development districts to create water management planning entities to improve and expand public water infrastructure, which now provides drinking water to more than 95 percent of the state’s population.
The Barren River Area Development District created the Water Management Council. It remains active today, and BRADD infrastructure management planner Thomas Grubbs hopes to expand the council’s network and regional collaboration.
“I think it’s something people don’t think about on a daily basis, how interconnected our region is due to karst properties,” said Grubbs, who also coordinates the Water Management Council.
The council meets during the last month of each quarter to discuss water and wastewater projects in the region with judge-executives, mayors and water professionals. And ultimately, the council will decide which water projects BRADD will help secure funding for in the next year.
On Wednesday, the council hosted Lee Anne Bledsoe, director of the Crawford Hydrology Lab at Western Kentucky University, to hear how her lab works toward the same objectives as the council.
The lab serves as a research institution for students and a commercial lab that conducts groundwater investigations, with a specialty in using fluorescent dyes to track karst networks. Part of the work is helping people understand the connections between the earth, water and people.
“We all do want to have healthy, productive citizens contributing to society. Clean water and sanitation is a huge part of that,” Bledsoe said. “Our environment has to be healthy for our people to be healthy.”
The Barren River region’s waterways are connected because of the nature of its underground networks, so what impacts one city or county eventually impacts the region. Bledsoe cited the example of how the gasoline release that occurred this year in the Lost River watershed in Bowling Green ultimately flowed into Barren River.
“Everything that eventually infiltrates the ground ends up in (our) rivers,” Bledsoe said.
To combat these karst-specific issues, the region would benefit from collaboration and public outreach, especially to communities that opt out of using the public water system.
She cited the example of an Amish community experiencing a Hepatitis A outbreak because of being unaware of threats to the water supply.
“Just because water is clear and cold does not mean it’s clean,” Bledsoe said.
Like Grubbs, Bledsoe encouraged the sharing of resources in science, public outreach and education.
During the meeting, the council approved new criteria for ranking community projects to improve water or wastewater systems. The criteria includes an incentive to incorporate public outreach into each project.
The council will use this criteria to approve the next round of projects for 2020 during the council’s fourth and final meeting of the year, which is tentatively scheduled Dec. 4.
– Follow reporter Caroline Eggers on Twitter @eggers dailynews or visit bgdaily news.com.