Garrard, Lincoln and Mercer counties are among 27 Kentucky counties under a water shortage watch issued Friday by the state Energy and Environment Cabinet.
The cabinet issued the watch due to continuing high temperatures and limited rainfall and said residents living in the areas should closely monitor local news sources for notification from water suppliers on reducing demands for water.
A watch is issued when drought conditions have the potential to threaten the normal availability of drinking water supplies.
The 27 counties, listed by Drought Management Area, included in the watch are:
Bluegrass DMA — Garrard, Lincoln and Mercer along with Anderson, Bourbon, Clark, Estill, Fayette, Franklin, Harrison, Jessamine, Madison, Nicholas, Scott and Woodford.
Barren River DMA — Monroe, Simpson and Warren
Buffalo Trace DMA — Fleming and Robertson
Cumberland Valley DMA — Whitley
Green River DMA — Webster
Kentucky River DMA — Lee and Owsley
Northern Kentucky DMA — Owen and Pendleton
Pennyrile DMA — Crittenden
The persisting historic drought situation is dramatically impacting farm crops in this region, said Garrard County Extension Agent Jay Hettmansperger. Pastures and creeks in the area are drying up, and very few farmers in Garrard have access to irrigation.
Corn is not pollinating well, which will significantly harm farmers financially. Expected crop shortages are already driving up grain and vegetable prices in grocery stores and farmers markets, said Hettmansperger.
“Soon water is going to become a critical commodity,” the extension agent said. “Unfortunately, there is really nothing anyone can do to stop this situation.”
Mercer County Extension Agent Linda McClanahan said farmers in her area are experiencing similar problems and the drought could impact the survival of cattle.
Harrodsburg is one of the communities that has issued a voluntary water advisory, and residents have significantly reduced non-essential uses of water such as filling swimming pools, said Kenny Hooper, assistant superintendent of the Harrodsburg Water Department.
State climatologist Stuart Foster said “the combined impact of dry conditions and extremely hot temperatures at this time is causing a one-two punch.”
“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. “The current situation is reminiscent of 1988, while there are some indications that persistence of the current hot and dry pattern that would trigger comparisons to droughts from the 1930s.”
Agriculture has been particularly hard hit in western Kentucky counties.
“The timing of the drought on corn has already and will continue to reduce yields significantly,” said University of Kentucky Agricultural Meteorologist Tom Priddy. “Doubled-cropped soybeans are having a difficult time with germination. Ponds are running low for irrigation purposes and watering of livestock. Western and central locations may be near the point where rain would provide little benefit for corn and soybean growth, development and yield.”
The Kentucky Press News Service contributed to this story.