In descending order, by date published.
Authors: Carmen Agouridis
Outdoor learning environments or classrooms are spaces where students can learn about the natural and human-created world while in an outdoor or natural setting. In these spaces, instructors can use engaging, interdisciplinary, hands-on curriculum to lead students through lessons and to encourage exploration. While often used for science and agricultural studies, outdoor classrooms are also useful for teaching mathematics, social studies, language arts, music, art, and practical living.
Urban areas are characterized by impervious surfaces such as roads, driveways, sidewalks, and building roofs. Stormwater occurs when precipitation runs off these impervious surfaces. Stormwater can present both water quality and water quantity issues in urban watersheds. Water quality of local waterways is threatened when stormwater carries pollutants to streams and rivers; increased water quantity in these local waterways can damage streambanks, cause flooding, and create more water quality problems.
Kentucky has more than 90,000 miles of rivers and streams and thousands of ponds, lakes, reservoirs, and wetlands. You can improve your surroundings and the quality of your stream, pond, or lake by planting an area called a riparian buffer or buffer zone.
As stormwater moves across lawns and paved areas, it picks up bacteria, nutrients, sediments, heavy metals, and chemicals before traveling through the storm sewers to our water bodies. Because the stormwater is not cleaned or treated, it creates harmful conditions for the environment and for us.
Many urban homeowners are not sure what to do about the stream in their backyard. Who owns it? How can I take care of it? What plants are good for my streambanks? These common questions lead to some confusing answers. This publication is designed to help the homeowner of a backyard stream appreciate this resource, protect personal property, and improve water quality and habitat.
Kentucky's abundant forage and extensive stream system have helped the Commonwealth become the largest beef producing state east of the Mississippi River. While streams and ponds serve as a water source for many operations, livestock can quickly degrade soil and water quality by trampling streambanks and defecating and urinating in and around waterbodies. These actions increase sediment, pathogen, and nutrient loads to streams, rivers, and lakes which in turn can causes eutrophication. To help protect the health of Kentucky's soil and water, producers can implement best management practices (BMPs). These practices help reduce the sources of pollutants and/or the transport of pollutants to waterways. One such practice or BMP is limiting cattle access to streams and ponds. When producers exclude livestock access to stream and ponds and their associated riparian buffers, an alternative source of water is required. Automatic water fountains are one commonly used means of providing cattle with water from an alternate source. A water tank constructed using a heavy equipment tire may serve as a viable option for supplying livestock with an alternate source of water.
Understanding the effectiveness of BMPs based on their location in the watershed and in relation to different types of pollutants is an important part of protecting waterbodies. One way to do this is with the use of models.
Increased levels of urbanization result in reductions in the amount of rainfall that infiltrates and evapotranspires and increases the amount of rainfall that becomes runoff. These changes can result in flooding, streambank erosion, and water quality degradation. Hydrologic models are useful in understanding watersheds and how changes in a watershed can affect hydrology. Hydrologic models can predict the amount of rainfall that becomes runoff under different scenarios.
Sediments in waterbodies cause a number of problems such as harming aquatic habitats, filling reservoirs, and worsening flooding. High amounts of sediment in the water inhibit the ability of fish and aquatic macroinvertebrates to move, breathe, hunt and reproduce. Accumulated sediments in reservoirs reduces their useful life and increases costs associated with maintenance. Streams experiencing such sediment buildup carry less water during storm events.
Knowing the amount of water flowing in a stream can improve management practices such as those related to streambank erosion, pollutant loading and transport, and flood control. Streamflow or discharge is defined as the volume of water moving past a specific point in a stream for a fixed period of time.
Streams are an important part of the landscape. Streams transport water, sediment and energy; provide habitat for aquatic life and support terrestrial life; provide a place for recreation; and in many cases serve as a water supply. The health of streams---or their ability to perform these important functions---is dependent on the conditions of the watersheds which they drain. Changes in land use within a watershed can affect a stream's health.
Authors: Carmen Agouridis
Karst refers to terrain largely drained by subsurface conduits and caves. Karst landscapes are characterized by surface features such as springs, sinkholes, shallow depressions, and rolling hills. Karst regions are also known for their subsurface or below-ground features such as conduits and caves. What makes a karst region unique is the way runoff drains from the land. In karst regions, some of the runoff flows into surface features such as sinkholes where it then travels underground. Some of this infiltrated water re-emerges at springs, and some continues moving underground.
Streambank erosion refers to the removal of soil and other material, such as rock and vegetation, from the streambank. Streambank erosion is a naturally occurring process, but the rate at which it occurs is often increased by anthropogenic or human activities such as urbanization and agriculture. Changes in land use can cause streambanks to erode at rates much faster than those seen in natural, undisturbed systems.
Stream restoration is the re-establishment of the structure (dimension, pattern, and profile) and function (transport of water, sediment, and nutrients; habitat provision) of a degraded stream as closely as possible to pre-disturbance conditions.
Authors: Carmen Agouridis
Groundwater is an important water source for activities such as drinking, bathing, cooking, and crop irrigation. Keeping our groundwater sources clean is becoming more challenging with an ever growing population. In watersheds underlain with karst, such as many of those in Kentucky, the groundwater is more susceptible to contamination. This is because surface waters, such as runoff and in some cases streamflow, travel into the subsurface of karst by way of fractures, sinkholes, swallow holes, conduits and caves Such direct paths into the groundwater mean that pollutants reach the aquifer much more quickly with little to no filtration. Thus, while waters from springs and wells may look clean, they may actually contain unsafe levels of pollutants such as bacteria and nitrogen.
Fresh water is an essential natural resource that is used every day for drinking, bathing, cooking, cleaning, and recreation. In Kentucky, the water used for these tasks mainly comes from streams and rivers, but it can also come from groundwater. Because our streams, rivers, and aquifers are so vital to our daily lives, it is important that we protect them from trash, debris, and other pollutants found in stormwater. What happens to the land around these water sources affects their condition and health.
As more land is covered by impervious surfaces, less rainfall infiltrates into the ground and instead becomes runoff. Too much runoff is problematic. Flooding increases, streambanks erode, and water quality is reduced. An increase of impervious area of as little 10 percent has been shown to negatively impact streams. The purpose of this publication is to explain low impact development strategies and how they can be used to improve stormwater management by reducing impacts on streams.
As our population has grown, so have our towns and cities, and this growth has led to an increase in stormwater runoff. Stormwater best management practices help mitigate the impact of stormwater runoff on water quality by reducing pollutant loads through physical, chemical and/or biological processes. One of the most effective BMPs at improving stormwater quality is the stormwater wetland.
Non-point source pollution (NPS) occurs when rainfall and snowmelt flows over the ground, picking up pollutants such as pathogens, sediments, and nutrients on its way to streams, rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water. More than 50 percent of the nation's rivers and streams and nearly 70 percent of the nation's lakes are impacted by NPS. Pathogens, sediments, and nutrients are the biggest contributors to impairment of rivers and streams while mercury, nutrients, and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) are the biggest contributors to the impairment of lakes. One method of managing NPS pollution is through the use of structural best management practices (BMPs). Structural BMPs are designed to decrease the volume of runoff that enters water bodies by increasing infiltration rates. Examples of structural BMPs include rain gardens, stormwater wetlands, and riparian buffers. A newer structural BMP is a weep berm.
Managing runoff in urban areas offers many challenges for engineers, landscape architects, and planners. As cities grow, the amount of impermeable surfaces--those that do not allow water to infiltrate into the ground--increases. Examples of impervious surfaces are asphalt roads, concrete sidewalks, parking lots, building roofs, and areas of highly compacted soils such as in subdivisions. If not properly managed, the stormwater runoff produced by these impermeable surfaces can have negative effects on nearby surface waters.
Stormwater is excess water from rainfall and snowmelts that flows over the ground and does not infiltrate the soil. It is a concern not just in urban areas but in suburban and agricultural locations as well. As stormwater runoff flows over the land or impervious surfaces, it picks up and transports trash and debris as well as pollutants such as pathogens, nutrients, sediments, heavy metals, and chemicals. This publication reviews some of these techniques and provides a list of recommended resources for additional information.
This publication provides livestock producers with instructions on how to install a stream crossing that provides animal and vehicular access across streams. This best management practice (BMP) is intended for use with exclusion fencing that restricts cattle access to the stream. Implementation of a stream crossing with exclusion fencing will improve water quality, reducing nutrient, sediment, pathogen, and organic matter loads to streams.
Kentucky's abundant forage makes it well suited for grazing livestock, but the pasturing and pasture feeding of livestock need to be managed. Allowing cattle to behave as they would naturally can lead to overgrazing, congregation in sensitive areas, buildup of mud, loss of vegetation, compaction of soils, and erosion.
Shade is a must for pasture-based grazing systems. It curtails heat stress, which is detrimental to cattle and causes a decrease in milk production, feed intake, weight gains, and fertility.
Actively creating a riparian buffer typically consists of six steps: site assessment, planting plan development, site preparation, species selection, planting, and protection and maintenance.
Rain barrels offer a number of benefits such as helping to reduce stormwater runoff, decreasing municipal water usage, and potentially protecting your home's foundation. Impervious surfaces such as rooftops, parking lots, and roads prevent rainwater or stormwater from soaking into the soil.
In Kentucky, cattle on pastures are often watered by streams. Although this practice solves water requirements for cattle, providing livestock free access to streams and riparian areas can lead to a contaminated water supply and damaged ecosystems. A better solution is to implement riparian buffers with limited access points to streams or provide alternative water sources. This practice can protect water quality, increase herd production, and provide other landowner benefits. The purpose of this publication is to explain the role of riparian areas and how they can benefit the livestock producer, the herd, and the environment.