Water problems and their solutions have been associated with the growth and development of the Louisville area for more than a century. Many hydrologic data that aided water users in the past can be applied to present water problems and will be helpful for solving many similar problems in the future. Most of the water problems of Louisville, a water-rich area, concern management and are associated with the distribution of supplies, the quality of water, drainage, and waste disposal.
The local hydrologic system at Louisville is dominated by the Ohio River and the glacial-outwash deposits beneath its flood plain. The water-bearing limestones in the uplands are ,secondary sources of water. The average flow of the Ohio River at Louisville, 73 billion gallons per day, and the potential availability of 370 million gallons per day of ground water suitable for industrial cooling purposes minimize the chance of acute water shortage in the area. Under current development, use of water averages about 211 million gallons per day, excluding about 392 million gallons of Ohio River water circulated daily through steampower plants and returned directly to the river. Optimum use and control of the water resources will be dependent on solving several water problems. The principal sources of water are in the Ohio River bottom land, whereas the new and potential centers of use are in the uplands. Either water must be piped to these new centers from the present sources or new supplies must be developed. Available data on streamflow and ground water are adequate to plan for the development of small local supplies.
Since the completion of floodwalls and levees in 1953, widespread damage from flooding is a thing of the past in the Louisville area. Some local flooding of unprotected areas and of lowlands along tributary streams still takes place. The analyses of streamflow data are useful in planning for protection of these areas, but additional streamflow records and flood-area mapping are needed to best solve the problem. Droughts are a problem only to users of small water supplies in the uplands, where additional water either can be imported or developed locally.
Pollution and undesirable chemical quality of water for some uses are the most serious drawbacks to the optimum development of the water resources in Louisville and Jefferson County. Available chemical analyses of ground water are useful for determining its suitability for various uses, but additional data are needed to guide management decisions. Sources of contamination should be inventoried and water samples analyzed periodically to monitor changes in quality.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Summary of hydrologic conditions of the Louisville area of Kentucky