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Kentucky Overview of the State’s Small Water Systems

Kentucky has been recognized nationally as a leader in drinking water system consolidation, regionalization, and/or merger of systems. In 2000, the Kentucky General Assembly passed Senate Bill 409, creating a structured planning process for water services throughout the state with the goal of making potable water and wastewater treatment available to all Kentucky residents. Kentucky has gone from regulating more than 2,100 public water systems and treatment plants in the 1970s to approximately 400 total water systems serving more than 95 percent of the state’s population in 2020. Pike County, located in southeast Kentucky, provides an excellent example of the regionalization effort. In 1974, there were 189 public water systems within the county. Today, only three public water systems originate in Pike County (one small, one medium, and one large) serving nearly 60,000 Kentuckians.

While such consolidations have helped to decrease system inefficiencies and increase economic sustainability, significant technical, financial, and managerial problems continue to plague many of the remaining systems in the Appalachian region of the state. Such problems include mountainous topographies, complex operational challenges, aging and failing infrastructure, inadequate rate structures and dwindling customer populations, customer affordability issues, workforce recruitment and retention, and increasing technical and regulatory requirements.


Kentucky ACTAT Program

In response to these challenges, researchers at the University of Kentucky have partnered with researchers at the National Environmental Services Center (NESC) at West Virginia University and researchers at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville (UTK) to form the Appalachian Community Technical Assistance and Training (ACTAT) program. The Kentucky ACTAT program is managed by the  Kentucky Water Resources Research Institute at the University of Kentucky. The program uses the USDA and EPA's Rural and Small Systems Guidebook to Sustainable System Management and the companion Workshop in a Box: Sustainable Management of Rural and Small Systems Workshop (WIB) as a basis to provide outreach, technical assistance, and training activities to small communities in Kentucky. The goal of the ACTAT program is to help under-resourced, small communities become sustainable and eligible to receive financial resources to address their vulnerable water infrastructure, a first step towards community economic growth.

A flyer about Kentucky’s ACTAT program is available for download here:  ACTAT General Information Flyer KY (PDF, 1pg).

Additional information about the Kentucky program can be found at:

Key leadership and contacts associated with the Kentucky program are summarized below:

Lindell Ormsbee, P.E., Ph.D., D.WRE Program Director

Lindell Ormsbee photo

Dr. Lindell Ormsbee is the Raymond-Blythe Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Kentucky. He currently serves as the director of the Kentucky Water Resources Research Institute. From 1983 to 2000, Dr. Ormsbee was involved in the development of KYPIPE, an integrated software system for use in analyzing flows and water quality in water distribution systems.  In addition to serving as the KY ACTAT program director, Dr. Ormsbee helps lead regional WIB workshops as well as utility specific workshops on water distribution modeling.
(859) 257-6329

Donna McNeil, EIT Program Administrator

Picture of Donna McNeil

Ms. McNeil joined the staff of the Kentucky Water Resources Research Center as a research engineer associate in 2020. Prior to joining the institute, she served as the director of the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority, the Environmental Control Manager of Kentucky’s Drinking Water Program, and a compliance specialist for the Kentucky Rural Water Association. Ms. McNeil serves as the program administrator and provides technical assistance to partner utilities.
(502) 330-0015

Scott Yost, Ph.D, P.E., Technical Consultant

Scott Yost photo

Dr. Scott Yost joined the faculty of the University of Kentucky in 1995. Dr. Yost is now the director of undergraduate studies and teaches environmental engineering and water resource engineering courses at the graduate and undergraduate level. His research focuses in hydraulic and hydrologic modeling including watersheds, surface-water environments, open channel flow, and estimation and optimization techniques. Dr. Yost provides technical assistance to our partner utilities in the areas of water distribution modeling and water audits using version 6 of the AWWA M36 audit protocol.

Diana Byrne, Ph.D., Technical Consultant

Diana Byrne photo

Dr. Diana Byrne joined the faculty at the University of Kentucky in 2020 as an assistant professor in the Department of CivilEngineering. Her research focuses on applying and adapting quantitative sustainable design tools such as life cycle assessment, life cycle costing, and risk assessment to help inform decision-making for water and sanitation infrastructure. Within the area of Sustainable and Humanitarian Engineering, she engages in research and teaching that focus on applying engineering to pursue meaningful impacts for people and the environment.

How to Get Involved

Link to Colleges/Programs


UK Civil Engineering Department (

Additional Resources

Kentucky Division of Water - Drinking Water Branch (

Kentucky Division of Compliance Assistance (

Kentucky Infrastructure Authority (

Kentucky Rural Water Association (

Kentucky Association of Water and Wastewater Operators (


Kentucky Public Service Commission(

Kentucky 15 Area Development Districts - Water Management Coordinators (

Kentucky Rural Community Assistance Program (