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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories

Kentucky Section 319 Success Stories, Vol. III

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Elkhorn Creek BMP Demonstration Project:
Farmers See Water Supply Alternatives in Action


Elkhorn Creek drains 311,000 acres in Fayette, Franklin, Scott, and Woodford Counties in Kentucky. At one time, the stream was ranked among the best in the nation for smallmouth bass fishing. It continues to be a valuable recreational resource and has provided an emergency source of drinking water during prolonged summer droughts.

The Elkhorn Creek watershed has been identified as impaired due to sediment, nutrient, and pathogen loading from nonpoint and point sources of pollution. Livestock production is important in the watershed and potentially contributes a significant part of the nonpoint source pollutant loading. Direct access of livestock to streams in the watershed contributes to the stream degradation. This degradation affects water quality, aquatic habitat, and recreation activities. Primary contact recreation (swimming) and warm water aquatic habitat uses are being adversely affected in much of the watershed.

Livestock management alternatives

Often, traditional methods of excluding livestock from streams and providing livestock water supply are not cost-effective or practical. However, promising fencing systems and water supply alternatives are available. The principal objective of this project is to demonstrate to farmers four alternatives for managing livestock: the ram pump; the pasture pump (cattle-activated pump); the solar-powered water pump; and use of limited-access watering points, using modern electric fencing components.

The solar-powered livestock watering system excludes livestock from the stream by using a solar-powered electric fence charger. So far, solar pump system performance has been very good. In full sunlight, the system pumps about 180 gallons per hour. The pasture pump (or nose pump) is a cow-activated diaphragm pump, reputed to be quite dependable. Use of this pump is limited, however, because the pump can't be used when temperatures are below freezing. Another demonstration farm uses a limited access watering point, using modern electrified water gaps. This type of system reduces but does not eliminate livestock access to a stream.

These systems have the potential to protect stream quality while providing a cleaner, safer water supply for livestock. To facilitate acceptance of the new management practices, four demonstration farms were located in the watershed. Because this project emphasizes use of nontraditional best management practices (BMPs), the use of field days as an educational tool is very important and is an integral part of the project.

Results in progress

Monitoring of changes in water quality and habitat resulting from the use of BMPs is ongoing. One year of stream data was collected for each of four demonstration farm sites before installation of BMPs, and 2 years of post-BMP data are to be collected. Parameters measured include total Kjeldahl nitrogen, NO2-NO3 nitrogen, ammonia, total phosphorus, water pH, temperature, conductivity, turbidity, and fecal coliform bacteria. Monitoring is conducted at upstream and downstream stations at each site.

The demonstration sites have provided opportunities for local farmers to share their experiences with alternative technologies for providing livestock water and to encourage their neighbors to consider the benefits of reducing livestock access to riparian areas. The use of local examples has proven very effective in promoting nontraditional farm practices. The project is already considered a success in that it has resulted in more adoption of rotational grazing and livestock exclusion from the creeks in the project area and even outside the project area.  
Randal Rock
USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service
180 Beasley Road
Versailles, KY 40383

Douglas Hines
USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service
Route 7, Box 37
Harrison Square Shopping Center
Cynthiana, KY 41031-8800

Primary Sources of Pollution:

agriculture (livestock)
Primary NPS Pollutants:



Project Activities:

alternative livestock exclusion practices (pumps, electric fencing)

monitoring in progress


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