A Plan for Ohio’s Watersheds
Existing Miles of
Rivers & Streams
Existing Acres of
Reservoirs & Ponds
A collaborative approach to the issues facing Ohio’s water.
H2Ohio is the water quality initiative Governor DeWine introduced to invest in targeted, long-term solutions to ensure clean and safe water in Lake Erie and throughout Ohio.
Through collaboration among the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Ohio Department of Agriculture, and Ohio Lake Erie Commission, H2Ohio will address critical water quality needs and support innovative solutions to some of the state’s most pressing water challenges.
Water is vital to us wherever we live. From aging infrastructure to failing septic systems to nutrient pollution to threats of lead contamination, communities throughout Ohio face different and unique water problems.
The Western Lake Erie Basin has been especially hard hit by algae blooms. We remember the 2014 water crisis when half a million Toledo residents couldn’t use their water. And, we’ve heard from charter boat captains who have said that during blooms, they have to travel farther and farther out into the water because the Lake was so thick and green, it was almost like pea soup!
Our water problems have accumulated over many years, and it will take a dedicated, long-term commitment to achieve real solutions to protect Ohio’s water.”
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, State of the State, March 5, 2019
Communities throughout the state face real and different water challenges
Water is vital, yet communities throughout the state regularly face challenges such as algae blooms, failing septic tanks, nutrient pollution, and threats of lead contamination.
Harmful Algal Blooms
Although most blooms on Ohio’s lakes and reservoirs are green algae and not harmful, there are some that have the ability to produce toxins called harmful algal blooms (HABs). More info on HABs can be found at the Ohio EPA. In addition, the state published recreational advisories for HABs at the Ohio Department of Health
Nutrient pollution is caused by too much nitrogen and phosphorus in waterways. Nutrients are elements that all living organisms need to grow, however too much in the water can contribute to harmful algal blooms, as well as other issues. More information on nutrient pollution and how the state is addressing the issue can be found at the Ohio EPA and the Ohio Lake Erie Commission
Failing Septic Systems
Septic systems treat wastewater from household plumbing fixtures (toilet, shower, laundry, etc.) through both natural and technological processes, typically beginning with solids settling in a septic tank, and ending with wastewater treatment in the soil via the drain field. Most septic systems fail because of inappropriate design or poor maintenance. These conditions can cause hydraulic failures and contamination of nearby water sources. The most serious documented problems involve contamination of surface waters and groundwater with disease-causing pathogens and nitrates. Other problems include excessive nutrient discharges into sensitive waters, which increases algal growth and lowers dissolved oxygen levels. More information on sewage treatment systems can be found at the Ohio EPA.
Lead is a toxic metal that can be harmful to human health even at low exposure levels. It can enter drinking water when plumbing materials that contain lead corrode, especially where the water has high acidity or low mineral content that corrodes pipes and fixtures. The most common sources of lead in drinking water are lead pipes, faucets, and fixtures. Lead is persistent, and it can bioaccumulate in the body over time causing physical and behavioral effects especially in pregnant women, infants, and young children. In children, low levels of exposure have been linked to damage to the central and peripheral nervous system, learning disabilities, shorter stature, impaired hearing, and impaired formation and function of blood cells. More information on lead can be found at the Ohio EPA.
The H2Ohio Plan
The H2Ohio Fund will help ensure safe and clean water across Ohio by providing the resources necessary to plan, develop, and implement targeted long-term water solutions.
PREVENTION – LAND-BASED STRATEGIES TO PROTECT OUR WATERWAYS
The H2Ohio fund will support efforts to minimize the introduction of nutrients and other things that wash off from land that can damage our water. It will also provide funding for more aggressive action to repair failing septic systems and other water treatment needs across Ohio.
- Support efforts and build capacity to promote soil testing and fertilizer application best management practices, designed to reduce excess nutrient runoff into streams, rivers, and lakes.
- Additional staffing at Soil & Water Conservation Districts for technical support
- Support for nutrient management planning on farms
- Support for nine-element watershed planning
- Support and promote the use of the “4R” Nutrient Stewardship Certification program
- Support best management practices and precision agriculture for farmers, including funding for equipment and technology that facilitate more targeted application and an overall reduction in the use of fertilizers on farm fields.
- Support equipment purchase/retrofits to assist with nutrient placement
- Support investments in “edge of field” monitoring
- Support conservation practices and structures to keep fertilizer, manure and soil on fields and reduce nutrient loading into Ohio’s waterways
- Support and promote conservation and preservation practices to create more stream buffers to reduce nutrient loading into our waterways including adding permanent buffers.
WATER-BASED RESTORATION THROUGH NATURAL REMEDIES, TREATMENT, TECHNOLOGIES, AND INNOVATION
Despite best efforts at prevention, some excess nutrients and runoff will continue to enter our waterways. Wetlands are nature’s solution to assist with naturally filtering these waters and trapping nutrients. Additionally, there are emerging technologies to minimize water quality problems and treat the polluted water flowing through our waterways, similar to point source pollution strategies.
- Wetland Creation for retention and water filtration
- Create additional wetlands to naturally filter out nutrients and sediment
- Support statewide grant program for upland wetland creation
- Support failing wastewater and water supply systems across Ohio, particularly in economically disadvantaged areas throughout the state
- Build on successes with agricultural drainage modifications
SCIENCE, RESEARCH, AND MEASUREMENT – MONITORING AND PROTECTING OUR WATERWAYS
- Support continued scientific research and data collection
- Ensure decisions are being made with the best available information
- Establish metrics and measurable goals
- Remain apprised of and make use of new prevention and treatment technologies
- Invest in additional water quality monitoring
1. Soil Testing & Nutrient Management
Soil Testing and Nutrient Management Planning is critical to assisting with water quality improvement efforts. Utilizing nutrient management plans will help the farmer make better nutrient application decisions which can ultimately lead to fewer nutrients entering our waterways. Soil testing is a critical component in creating a nutrient management plan. Videos on how Ohio farmers are improving water quality can be found at the USDANRCS YouTube Channel.
2a. Precision Nutrient Application
Precision nutrient application can make an impact on our water quality efforts. Using Variable Rate Technology, Fertilizer Incorporation, and subsurface placement of nutrients coupled with regular soil testing have been proven to make a positive impact in water quality efforts. Additionally, one of most critical approaches a farmer can use today involves the 4R Principle, which is the Right Source (fertilizer), at the Right Rate, at the Right Time and in the Right Place.
2b. Edge-of-field Monitoring
To further aid in water quality improvement, technological efforts such as Edge of Field water quality monitoring provide researchers with the ability to measure and analyze the quality of water leaving the field, the amount of water leaving the field, and measure differences in water quality from different management practices utilized by the farmer.
2c. Conservation Best Management Practices
Conservation best management practices like cover crops, conservation tillage, and small grain crop rotation are utilized by farmers to minimize nutrient loading into Ohio’s waterways from soil, erosion, animal manures, and water runoff. Some practices, like cover crops can improve soil health and provide additional benefits.
3. Riparian Buffer Zones, Conservation Buffers, and Filter Strips
Conservation buffers like a riparian buffer or stream buffer is a vegetated area, often forested, which helps shade and partially protect the stream from the impact of adjacent land uses. Riparian Buffers are used at the edge of the field near streams, rivers and/or lakes. Filter strips are also used by farmers to naturally filter water and trap nutrients before they move to the waterways. These buffers provide environmental and ecological benefits.
4a. Coastal Wetland Creation
Coastal wetlands play a key role in improving water quality by naturally filtering out nutrients and sediments at the mouths of rivers and streams that flow into Lake Erie. These wetlands also reduce resuspension of nutrient-laden sediments in shallow water areas of the Lake and provide important environmental and ecological benefits.
4b. Riparian Wetland Creation
Riparian (or upland) wetlands play a key role in improving water quality by naturally filtering out nutrients and sediment along rivers, streams, and small lakes. These wetlands retain and store water, trap and process nutrients, and provide important environmental and ecological benefits.
5. Address Water & Waste Systems
Well-maintained public drinking water and wastewater infrastructure is critical for public health, strong businesses, and clean rivers and aquifers. Increased efforts to improve inadequate systems, infrastructure needs, and better technologies are critical for improved water quality efforts.
6. Agricultural Drainage Modifications
The use of Drainage Water Management including controlled drainage structures, blind inlets, which can be effective tools in reducing the total drainage volume and associated nutrient loads from tile-drained agriculture, while also providing an opportunity for improved crop yields.
7. Continued Scientific Research
Continued support of research and data collection helps to ensure that decisions are By utilizing the latest data and research on water quality, agricultural practices, and chemical application. This practice will also allow for the establishment of new metrics and measurable goals.
8. Water Quality Monitoring
Water Quality Monitoring is critical in our effort to improve our resources. In the Lake Erie Basin, a stream gauge network is used in a variety of ways to collect important data needed to help us better manage our water resources, as well as understand what is in the water. The network provides a simplified overview of nutrient loads and concentrations that have been shown to be highly correlated with harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie. Summarizing the results of these water monitoring efforts provides critical information to agencies and the public.
What you Need to know
The Importance of Partnership
To improve successful outcomes, numerous Ohio agencies have partnered together to leverage existing programs, expertise, staff, and oversight. As the program continues to develop, more partnerships will emerge within state and local agencies as well as industrial and volunteer-based programs.