The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet and the Office of the State Climatologist, in coordination with the Kentucky drought mitigation team, have issued a Level 2 drought declaration for 78 counties and a Level 1 declaration for 42 counties.

Franklin County is among 78 counties across the state that are under a Level 2 drought declaration. 

The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet and the Office of the State Climatologist in coordination with the Kentucky drought mitigation team issued the Level 2 drought declaration on Wednesday, along with a Level 1 declaration for 42 counties. 

A press release about the declaration said that the areas in the Level 2 drought could have "substantial agricultural losses, diminished stream flows in small streams and rivers and increases in the occurrence of wildfires."

If the drought continues, some water utilities across the state will have trouble treating water and may have to issue conservation advisories or water-use restrictions due to limited water, the release said. 

Kentucky has seen "unprecedented dryness," officials said, with little to no rainfall in many locations throughout September. Combined with the record heat, the drought has led to "rapidly deteriorating conditions." 

“The combination of hot, dry weather that set in across Kentucky in August reached an unprecedented level during September, based on the period of record dating back to 1895,” said Stu Foster, state climatologist for Kentucky, in a press release. “As a result, drought conditions have developed rapidly as we enter what is climatologically the driest time of the year.”

At this time, public water supplies are not seriously affected, but a persistent drought will increase the risk of water shortage conditions, especially for systems that rely on small lakes, small headwater streams and wells, officials said. Lakes with low water levels can lead to water quality issues that could present treatment challenges for utilities. 

The heat has had a serious impact on agriculture, especially cattle production. Diminished pasture conditions have led to limited fall grazing and forced many producers to feed winter hay well ahead of schedule. Numerous county agents report hay yields cut in half and moisture availability has put a halt to pasture renovations. 

The Kentucky Division of Water is monitoring all Kentucky water systems and their sources of supply and will notify the public of any changes that may lead to water shortages. 

Matt Dixon from UK Ag Weather Center said data at the center showed Kentucky averaged only 0.28 inches of rain during the month.

“This has led farm ponds and streams to diminish tremendously, which has pushed some producers to start hauling water,” Dixon said.

Even with Friday's break from the brutal heat of late, the long-term outlook indicates below-normal precipitation for the next 30 days.

The Kentucky Drought Mitigation and Response Plan defines a tiered approach to classifying drought severity using multiple indicators to assess the intensity and location of a developing drought. These indicators include the Drought Monitor, Palmer Drought Index, Crop Moisture Index and precipitation and streamflow measurements.

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