As part of Governor Mike DeWine’s H2Ohio initiative, agency directors from the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA), Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), the Ohio EPA, and the Ohio Lake Erie Commission (OLEC) joined COSI’s CEO for an Earth Day celebration focusing on water.

“Ohio’s youth are the key to long-term success in protecting water, our greatest resource,” said Governor DeWine. “We appreciate our partnership with COSI to engage the next generation.”

“Today’s Earth Day celebration at COSI has been nothing short of outstanding, especially with the participation of all of our great partners,” said Dr. Frederic Bertley, president & CEO, COSI. “By engaging our guests around topics like clean waterways and environmental careers, we hope to inspire them to keep our planet clean for future generations.”

Agency directors took part in an interactive presentation for youth to share H2Ohio’s role in keeping Ohio’s waterways clean.

OLEC Executive Director Joy Mulinex opened the program with education about Ohio’s need for clean water and the impact it has on all Ohioans.

“Everyone—kids and adults–needs clean and safe water for drinking, bathing, farming or swimming,” said Executive Director Mulinex. “H2Ohio brings together multiple state agencies, communities, and other partners to protect and restore Ohio’s waters for future generations.”

OLEC oversees H2Ohio’s collaboration and implementation and0 engages with academic researchers to produce water quality models that inform the program’s decision making.

ODA Director Brian Baldridge stressed the importance of agriculture’s role in protecting water quality.

“Agriculture touches every aspect of life for all Ohioans,” said ODA Director Baldridge. “Producers that grow the products we use to feed our families are engaged in H2Ohio, and they are making sure they are doing everything they can to improve water quality.”

ODA’s portion of H2Ohio continues to see tremendous interest from producers. To date, 1.5 million acres are enrolled in H2Ohio and following Voluntary Nutrient Management Plans (VNMP). VNMPs are the backbone of all other best management practices producers are implementing on the field. Using current soil tests and technology, producers are only placing nutrients on the field where they are needed.

Ohio EPA Director Vogel highlighted how water is vital to every part of our lives.

“Earth Day weekend is a great opportunity to share with young people the importance of water,” said Director Vogel. “Whether we’re talking about the drinking water that comes from our public water systems, or the wastewater treatment plants that return water back to our rivers and streams, we have an obligation to the environment and the health of all Ohioans to make sure the water is clean. The governor’s H2Ohio program has been a tremendous success as we move toward that goal throughout the state.”

Ohio EPA is improving the lives of those in our communities by installing needed water and sewer infrastructure and removing lead service lines. More than 59,000 Ohioans have been served by Ohio EPA’s H2Ohio projects, including work that removed lead service lines in daycares.

ODNR Director Mertz emphasized the impact natural infrastructure has on Ohio’s water quality and wildlife habitats and the importance of teaching the next generation to embrace good conservation habits.

“For this initiative to be successful, we need to engage and educate young people about the importance of water quality, and this event gave us the chance to do just that,” ODNR Director Mertz said.  “Our wetlands provide filtration, wildlife habitat, and recreational opportunities for people of all ages. The work we are doing right now will pay off for the children we interacted with today.”

Through ODNR, 141 wetlands have been created or restored, filtering more than 15,000 acres of watershed. Additionally, ODNR continues to connect middle and high school teachers and their students to real-world learning opportunities, access to wetland sites, and career exploration opportunities through their Students Take Action program.