Explore. Connect. Protect.

Our Mission: To improve and protect water quality by raising awareness and supporting implementation of the Clean Water Act and other water quality initiatives in the Big Sandy, Little Sandy, an Tygarts River Basins.

River Basins in Kentucky

Kentucky is divided into 7 major river basins, including the Big Sandy River Basin.

Each river basin includes all of the land drained by many streams, creeks and springs that flow downhill into one another, eventually forming rivers.

Watershed Watch in Kentucky serves the entire state, and Big Sandy River Watershed Watch focuses on carrying out the organization's mission specifically within the Big Sandy, Little Sandy, and Tygarts River Basins (in red on the map to the left).

Who We Are

Sampling Volunteers - BSWW is supported by over 200 active volunteers who give their time to improve our waterways through skills development, water quality monitoring, community outreach and education and water improvement efforts.

Steering Committee - A dedicated group of BSWW leaders meets regularly to coordinate our sampling events and related activities, review sampling data, discuss focused watershed area projects, explore funding opportunities, and ensure that the organization runs smoothly.

Watershed Watch in Kentucky - This statewide organization coordinates volunteer water monitoring across Kentucky. Big Sandy River Watershed Watch is one of seven basin groups that monitor streams, rivers and lakes across our state. Click HERE to learn more about our larger organization.

Partners - BSWW could not do its work without the critical support from our major partners.

What We Do

Train Samplers - We hold free training workshops each to train new volunteers and recertify existing volunteers. Online training has also been developed.

Loan Sampling Equipment - We loan test kits to trained volunteers so they can test water quality (pH, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, temperature). If desired, samplers also receive supplies for assessing stream biology and habitat.

Collect Water Quality Data - Our volunteers choose a stream to monitor, or we can help you find a site. Samplers use their test kits and collect bacteria samples three times each year in May, July and September. Stream biology and habitat are studied each June.

Analyze Sampling Results - At the conclusion of each sampling year, we summarize and assess the findings and share it with our volunteer samplers through a report and presentation during the annual conference.

Provide Environmental Education - Our board members and others in the organization attend conferences, workshops and youth events to teach about water quality and what we are doing to protect and improve it.

Promote Water Quality Improvement - We provide guidance and suggestions for putting water quality findings to use through local water improvement initiatives. Many of our sampling areas have progressed from backyard sampling to federally approved watershed improvement plans with associated funding.

Host Annual Conferences and Other Events - We coordinate an annual conference (usually in November) to present sampling results, provide organization updates, and hear from relevant speakers.

Where We Work

The Big Sandy River flows along the eastern border of Kentucky and the western border of West Virginia. The Big Sandy River Basin extends as far west in Kentucky as Morgan County and as far east in West Virginia as McDowell County and as far south in Virginia as Wise County. The river flows north and empties into the Ohio River. The basin encompasses approximately 2,300 square miles, which represents more than five percent of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Kentucky counties included in the basin are Pike, Martin, Floyd, Jefferson, Lawrence, Boyd, Carter, Elliot, Greenup, and some of the eastern portions of Rowan, Moran, Magoffin, Knott, and Letcher Counties. West Virginia counties include parts of Wayne, Mingo, and McDowell. Virginia counties include Buchanan, Dickenson, and Wise.

The Big Sandy River Basin is located in the Eastern Coalfield. The topography is generally steep, rugged mountains that have long, sharp ridges and are separated by deep coves and narrow valleys. The river is fed by many streams that drain the basin. The bedrock is mostly sandstone, siltstone, shale, coal, and limestone of the Pennsylvanian, Mississippian, and Devonian systems. Elevation in the basin ranges from 500 to 3,200 feet above sea level.

The majority of the basin is forested and represents one of the most biodiverse watersheds in North America. Human land uses in the basin have included timber harvesting, surface and underground mining for coal. Known water quality issues in the basin have included bacteria from improper waste water disposal, sediment from development in the floodplains, acid mine drainage, and trash.

Big Sandy Watershed Watch - PO Box 1248 - Frankfort, KY 40602 - (502)330-1748

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