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Extreme weather threatening water supply in Central Kentucky

As a result of continuing high temperatures and limited rainfall, the Energy and Environment Cabinet Friday announced a water shortage watch for 27 counties in Kentucky, including Fayette and surrounding counties according to a news release. A watch means the extreme weather has the "potential to threaten the normal availability of drinking water supply sources," according to the release.

Citizens living in watch areas should closely monitor local news for notification from water suppliers on reducing demands for water, the cabinet advised.

State Drought Coordinator Bill Caldwell said high temperatures combined with precipitation deficits frequently create surges in the demand for water, often exceeding a water supplier's ability to meet that demand.Kentucky American Water, which has three plants providing water services to nearly half a million Central Kentucky residents, has said its customers should not be concerned about water supply restrictions. Company spokeswoman Susan Lancho reiterated Friday its customers should not worry about any water restrictions, thanks to its most recent water treatment facility. The company completed the Owen County facility fall 2010 after research into how best to solve the region's water deficit issues.

It uses the Kentucky River to help balloon the supply of water by about 20 million gallons, Lancho said."That certainly helped tremendously as we the research indicated it would," she said. "It complements the other two plants that we already had ... The plant is fully operational and certainly we remain in good shape in terms of being able to serve our customers."

Caldwell said public water suppliers play a vital role in helping drought specialists monitor the drought's progression.

"Water suppliers in the 27-county watch area and throughout the state should closely monitor their supply sources and notify the Division of Water if water shortages occur," Caldwell said.

In the western part of the state, the drought has already reduced corn growth significantly, according to UK Agricultural Meteorologist Tim Priddy. Ponds for irrigation and livestock watering are running low, and the timing of the conditions could prove to be devastating for the summer.

"Western and central locations may be near the point where rain would provide little benefit for corn and soybean growth, development and yield," Priddy said. Caldwell said all Kentuckians who rely on wells or other small sources should avoid excessive water use and report losses of water supply to their county health department.

He said all Kentuckians should become aware of the current conditions and prepare to make adjustments to their water use.

State climatologist Stuart Foster described the extreme heat with the lack of rainfall as "a one-two punch."

The persistence of the current conditions, he said, trigger comparisons to some of the worst-ever droughts of 1988 and the 1930s, he said.

"An exceptionally dry June throughout the state coupled with some record-high temperatures over the past week have caused drought conditions to intensify and spread eastward to cover most of Kentucky," Foster said.