September 8, 1999 | By: Haven Miller
LEXINGTON, KY

As the drought scorches pastures and forces record numbers of cattle to market, farm ponds and streams are drying up in record numbers. As that happens, farmers are increasingly turning to public water systems to meet their needs. But they should be aware that public systems will probably not provide all the answers to their problems.

"As additional restrictions are placed on the general public for using water from public systems, part of these restrictions also will apply to farmers," said Henry Duncan, water quality liaison for the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. "If this drought continues -- as some are predicting -- some agricultural operations could be in jeopardy as far as water usage is concerned. As restrictions are placed on business and industry, those restrictions could likely apply to farmers as well."

Duncan also wants farmers to be aware of the possible implications of restricting stream flow with temporary dams or other blockages.

"Everyone lives upstream from someone else. If a farmer attempts to block a stream for his or her own use, that will affect someone downstream," Duncan said. "We need to remind our farmers that blocking a stream is not only un-neighborly, but may also be illegal. A division of water permit must be obtained before restricting the flow of a stream."

As the drought continues, Duncan said it's more important than ever for producers to conserve water and help detect and stop leaks.

"Farmers can reduce water usage by using trickle irrigation and watering livestock from containers rather than ponds or streams," he said. "Another suggestion is to continually be on the lookout for unsuspected leaks. Recently a leak was found in a rural area that had resulted in more than 80,000 gallons of water loss per day. The water was escaping undetected into an underground sinkhole."

Farmers with questions about water conservation are urged to contact their UK County Extension Agents for Agriculture and Natural Resources.

"Our county agents can provide specific recommendations, including sources of information and computer web site addresses where farmers can find out more about dealing with the drought," Duncan said.

Contact: 

Writer: Haven Miller (606) 257-3784
Source: Henry Duncan 502-564-3080