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​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​What is Nonpoint Source Pollution?

Nonpoint source (NPS) pollution, also known as runoff or diffuse pollution, is a major contributor of pollutants in Kentucky’s waterways. Unlike point source pollution, NPS pollution comes from many different sources over distributed areas. Point source pollution occurs when pollutants are discharged from distinct, confined conveyances, such as a pipe, well or even a boat. Point sources are permitted and monitored by the government. NPS Pollution is all the pollution that cannot be directly attributed to a point source. Generally, this means all pollution on the ground. The wide spread nature of nonpoint source pollution makes it difficult to monitor and impossible to permit. Even though NPS pollution is hard to regulate, it is one of the largest threats to water quality.

NPS pollution comes in many different forms. When runoff from rainfall or snowmelt is not able to infiltrate into the soil, it instead flows over the surface of the ground where it comes in contact with pollutants. These pollutants are carried by the moving water over the ground, and then deposited into lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal waters and even in underground aquifers.  Oil and gas on roads and driveways, fertilizers on lawns, pesticides on food crops, soap from car washes, and dirt from construction sites are just a few of the many sources that contribute to NPS pollution.  NPS pollutants can also come in the form of things in the water, like cattle in streams or collapsing stream banks. As these different pollutants build up in the water, our water quality declines. A decline in water quality is bad not only for the plants and animals that live in the water, but also for our drinking water. 

Kentucky’s Nonpoint Source Management Program

The Kentucky Nonpoint Source Management Program is authorized under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) amendments of 1987. While some people are familiar with Section 319(h), the grant program, fewer people are aware that Section 319(b) is the requirement for the development of a management program for controlling NPS pollution. This plan is called the Nonpoint Source Management Plan. 
KDOW has designed the Kentucky Nonpoint Source (NPS) Management Plan to be used for several purposes. First, this plan was designed as a way to inform citizens of the work the agency is doing to reduce nonpoint source pollution. Understanding what causes NPS pollution and the steps to decrease its effects in our state are necessary for lasting improvements to our water quality. Second, anyone applying for a Section 319(h) grant should draw on this document as a way of understanding the Commonwealth’s priorities for the NPS Management ​Program.

Section 319(h) Grant Program

By amendment to the federal Clean Water Act in 1987, the Section 319(h) Grant program was established to provide funding for efforts to reduce nonpoint source pollution. Each year DOW applies to US EPA to receive 319(h) funding. After receiving the federal award, DOW distributes a majority of the monies received through a competitive grant award process.  Within this program, funds may be used to demonstrate innovative best management practices (BMPs), support education and outreach programs, develop Watershed Based Plans, and to implement Watershed Based Plans.

NPS Mailing List

To be added to the Nonpoint Source Pollution email list, use one of the options below:

You will receive information on workshop announcements, activities, reports and other information.

If at any time you wish to have your name removed from the list, you can do so by emailing the options above and put “DELETE ME” in the subject line.

Have a question, or need more information?
If you have any questions regarding nonpoint source pollution, e-mail Nonpoint Source Pollution.

Related Links


The University of Kentucky cooperative extension offices serve as a link between the counties of the Commonwealth and the state's land grant universities to help people improve their lives through an educational process focusing on their issues and needs.

Kentucky's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides leadership and administers programs to help people conserve, improve and sustain our natural resources and environment on private land.

U.S. Department of Agriculture – NRCS Technical Resources Web site - provides technical information, resources, tools, models and data.

The Livestock and Poultry Environmental Stewardship (LPES) Curriculum project provides a national curriculum and supporting educational tools to United States livestock and poultry industry advisers who, in turn, can help producers acquire certification and/or achieve environmentally sustainable production systems. Producers also benefit from the information and assessment tools that the curriculum provides.

Kentucky Division of Conservation’s mission is to assist Kentucky's 121 local conservation districts in the development and implementation of sound soil and water conservation programs to manage, enhance and promote the wise use of the Commonwealth's natural resources.​

Kentucky Environmental Education Council (KEEC) is charged with promoting and coordinating environmental education activities in the Commonwealth. This link contains standard aligned curriculum, information on where to borrow Enviroscape NPS models, and information on environmental education outreach and professional development opportunities throughout the Commonwealth.

The Kentucky Association for Environmental Education (KAEE) is a statewide organization made up of nonformal and formal educators, interested citizens, and agency and business representatives. KAEE offers its members opportunities to share ideas through an annual conference and newsletter. KAEE members assist with the development and implementation of environmental education programs. The national organization that serves the same purposes and further helps to raise the professional standards for environmental educators is the North American Association for Environmental Education.

Eastern Kentucky PRIDE, or Personal Responsibility In a Desirable Environment, serves 38 counties in southern and eastern Kentucky. The PRIDE initiative focuses people's attention on the pollution problems in the region and looks for ways to fix those problems.

Bluegrass Greensource strives to promote environmental awareness and educational programs in 18 central Kentucky counties, their communities and schools, while tackling straight pipe, illegal dump and other environmental cleanup projects.

PROJECT WET is a nonprofit organization that seeks to deliver water education resources, organize special events, and manages a worldwide network of local partners who advocate for water education as a solution to the world’s water issues. In Kentucky, the Division of Water is the host institution and the Kentucky Association for Environmental Education administers the program, which trains educators and facilitators in the Project WET curriculum.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) mission is to protect human health and to safeguard the natural environment — air, water and land — upon which life depends. For 30 years, EPA has been working for a cleaner, healthier environment for the American people.

See EPA’s home page for Nonpoint Source Pollution programs.

The Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources is responsible for the conservation of wildlife resources and for boating projects in the state. Its mission is to conserve and enhance fish and wildlife resources and provide opportunity for hunting, fishing, trapping, boating and other wildlife related activities. There are many funding and educational resources available through this organization.

The Kentucky Master Logger program was instituted under the Kentucky Forest Conservation Act. Every active logging operation must have a certified master logger on site. The Master Logger Program provides instruction in the use of best management practices (BMPs) on logging operations.

American Forests is a world leader in planting trees for environmental restoration, a pioneer in the science and practice of urban forestry, and a primary communicator of the benefits of trees and forests.

The Kentucky Division of Forestry’s mission is to protect and enhance the forest resources of the Commonwealth through a public informed of the environmental and economic importance of these resources.

The Kentucky Association of Mitigation Managers (KAMM) - provides technical information, resources, and tools for Nature-based Solutions and related Green Infrastructure and Low-Impact Development projects.

EPA’s Septic Systems (Onsite/Decentralized Systems) webpage provides information, educational resources, and technical resources to help citizens and communities investigate and implement an on-site/decentralized management program.

National Onsite Wastewater Recyclers Association. Its mission is to provide leadership and promote the on-site wastewater treatment and recycling industry through education, training, communication and quality tools to support excellence in performance.

The National Small Flows Clearinghouse​, funded by the EPA, helps America's small communities and home owners solve their wastewater problems to protect public health and the environment.

Kentucky has issued the Integrated Report to Congress on the Condition of Water Resources in Kentucky, 2018 & 2020 Combined Cycle​, which reports on the quality of water in the streams, lakes, and reservoirs of all major river basins of the Commonwealth. The 2018/2020 report provides a statewide update on water quality conditions of water bodies in all river basins.  

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