Water Quality

Why is water quality important?

Water Quality

Ohio Department of Health (ODH)

In Ohio, many residents receive their drinking water from ground or surface water resources through private water systems such as wells, springs, ponds, rainwater cisterns, and hauled water. The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) requires that the water provided from these systems be tested for a few basic contaminants upon completion of the private water systems construction, alteration or other activity under an open private water systems permit. Once that open permit receives final approval from the local health district, property owners need to take special precautions to ensure the protection and maintenance during the life time of their private water systems. The required tests to approve a private water system permit are:

The Ohio Department of Health current microbiological standards for private water systems are summarized in the Microbiological Standards for Private Water Systems fact sheet.

In addition to these requirements, ODH has established drinking water standards for private water systems based on the federal drinking water standards for public water systems

(Drinking Water Contaminants – Standards and Regulations - https://www.epa.gov/dwstandardsregulations).

These standards are to be used as a health standard to guide private water system owners on the potential health effects of exposure to different naturally-occurring and man-made constituents.

Testing for all the contaminants for the federal safe drinking water standards is expensive and not necessary for most systems. The Ohio Department of Health recommends that private water system owners test a few parameters such as total coliform bacteria, E. coli, nitrates and arsenic on a regular basis to maintain a record of water quality and identify any changes to the system or loss of water quality. Good records of water quality are important to prove if a private water system has been affected by a nearby land use activity. Contact your local health district to learn what water samples they can collect. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) certifies laboratories to perform water testing on drinking water, visit the Ohio EPA's website to find a current list of certified laboratories for testing drinking water.

Water Quality Standards Program

- Ohio EPA -

Our water quality is constantly threatened by many different sources and types of pollution. Under the Clean Water Act, every state must adopt water quality standards to protect, maintain and improve the quality of the nation's surface waters. These standards represent a level of water quality that will support the goal of "swimmable/fishable" waters. Water quality standards are ambient standards as opposed to discharge-type standards. These ambient standards, through a process of back calculation procedures known as total maximum daily loads or waste load allocations form the basis of water quality based permit limitations that regulate the discharge of pollutants into surface waters under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program.

U.S. EPA's water quality standards website is at https://www.epa.gov/wqs-tech.

For more information about this program created by the Ohio EPA, please click here.

A Water Quality Status Report

Ohio's Country Journal: Ohio Ag

By Dusty Sonnenberg, CCA, Ohio Field Leader: a project of the Ohio Soybean Council and soybean checkoff

When farmers set their mind to something, they are going to do it right. That has been the case as the agriculture industry pulled together to tackle water quality issues across the state. In 2014, the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation announced that their members would be investing $1 million dollars to develop a comprehensive water quality action plan to address growing concerns of water quality issues in the Western Lake Erie Basin and the Ohio River. Since that time, individual farmers and agricultural businesses, agricultural commodity groups and livestock organizations, and environmental groups have joined forces to bring the plan to reality.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic stealing the headlines, the H2Ohio program was making news across the state.

“The H2Ohio program is money that Ohio Governor Mike DeWine set aside for the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) the Ohio Department of Natural Resource (ODNR) and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help with water quality projects that span the state and span those departments,” said Jordan Hoewischer, Director of Water Quality and Research for the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. “The money designated to the ODA has been focused on implementing conservation practices in the Western Lake Erie Basin by farmers in that region.”

Farmers take pride in being stewards of their land and resources.

“We have been asking for money (from H2Ohio) to help farmers who are willing and able to implement conservation practices, but in these economically challenging times, need the assistance to be able to do so in a cost-effective way,” Hoewischer said.

With the H2Ohio program announcement by Governor DeWine last fall, 10 of the most effective and cost efficient agricultural management practices have been identified to reduce phosphorus runoff. Over 2,000 farmers have submitted applications to participate in the H2Ohio program to manage nutrients by these practices. Collectively those applications represent 1.1 million acres of cropland in 14 counties in the Maumee River Watershed by farmers eligible to participate.

The Ohio Agriculture Conservation Initiative (OACI) was created in concert with H2Ohio. OACI is a diverse group of 18 stakeholders representing agriculture, conservation, environmental groups and research institutions.

“For the last year and a half, the OACI has been meeting to come up with comprehensive and cohesive ways to continue to push farmers along with their conservation efforts,” Hoewischer said. “Coupled with the H2Ohio program efforts, OACI has been able to be the private organization out in front with two efforts. The first is a farm/field evaluation survey in the lower Maumee River Watershed to establish a baseline with where conservation efforts are. This will allow us to measure improvement. The second is a farmer certification program that evaluates where farmers are at with their conservation efforts and helps develop a plan of continuous improvement. A new app and online portal are scheduled to be released later in July so farmers can self-certify. Both of these efforts feed into H2Ohio to serve as gatekeepers for the funds.”

Since it’s launch in 2015, the Blanchard River Demonstration Farms Network has provided an opportunity to both research and exhibit conservation practices in action.

“The Blanchard River Demonstration Farms are in the Western Lake Erie Basin,” Hoewischer said. “They demonstrate conservation practices and showcase what a lot of farmers are doing in the area. We bring private and public organizations, legislators, students and teachers from around Ohio, to show them what a real farm looks like, and what farmers are trying out with their own finances to improve nutrient management and water quality. The farmers are trying to demonstrate and explain to visitors how they are doing their part by working to keep water from moving off of their fields carrying the nutrients with it down the pike to the next body of water.”

The conservation practices demonstrated on these farms include: cover crops, drainage water management structures, manure and fertilizer placement, phosphorus removal beds, and many others. These were categorized for farmers so they could understand what conservation goal was being met including the 4Rs (Right Source, Right Rate, Right Time, Right Place), reducing soil erosion and developing a water management plan.

In addition, the Ohio Farm Bureau started a County Water Quality Grant program 5 years ago.

“We wanted to spread some money around other parts of the state,” Hoewischer said.

The Ohio Farm Bureau and partnering organizations have invested in county Farm Bureau led water quality projects. Farm Bureau has awarded nearly $450,000 that has been leveraged to gain nearly $700,000 in matching funds from outside groups such as businesses, universities, Soil and Water Conservation Districts, federal agencies, and local park districts. A nutrient efficiency forecasting tool was created as well.

“A water quality smartphone app was updated. Educational tours and workshops were conducted. Even bus trips to the Blanchard River Demonstration Farms Network were hosted,” Hoewischer said.

These are just some of the measures Ohio farm organizations have made to the financial and physical commitment for improving water quality issues across the state.

“Ohio farmers for a long time have been doing a lot of good things for conservation,” Hoewischer said. “H2Ohio and OACI can support the leaders implementing practices, encourage those beginning, and help bring up the middle to keep up with Ohio’s changing landscape.”

Below is an article about nutrient pollution found on the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency website.

Nutrient pollution is a major water quality problem in Ohio and throughout the nation.

We are actively working on solutions that work for Ohio. While efforts to control nutrient enrichment over the past 30 years have yielded some positive results, current evidence shows the need to develop newer solutions and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of existing strategies to reduce nutrients in our waterways.

Nutrient pollution is one of America's most widespread, costly and challenging environmental problems.

It is caused by too much nitrogen and phosphorus in water. Nutrients are chemical elements that all living organisms—plants and animals—need to grow. When too much nitrogen and phosphorus enter the environment—usually from a wide range of human activities—the water can become polluted. The primary sources of nutrient pollution are runoff of fertilizers, animal manure, sewage treatment plant discharges, storm water runoff, car and power plant emissions, and failing septic tanks. Water pollution caused by excessive amounts of nutrients is quite evident in Ohio's many lakes, rivers, and streams. Approximately 48% of Ohio's watersheds are degraded by nutrient loading from phosphorus and nitrogen. Conditions in Ohio's surface waters have reached a critical situation.

In Ohio, nutrient pollution causes many problems such as:

  • Harmful algal blooms (HABs) in Lake Erie and inland lakes

  • The issuance of public health warnings to avoid swimming

  • Widespread nuisance growths of aquatic vegetation

  • Increased water treatment costs for clean public water supplies

  • Renewed concern over the increased size of anoxic areas in Lake Erie

To address these problems, Ohio citizens will need to make significant changes regarding the management of agricultural and urban landscapes to minimize the influx of nutrients to our waterways. Further consideration must be given to the design, construction, and operation of nutrient removal technologies at wastewater treatment facilities. The nature of these changes and the approaches taken by governmental agencies, agri-businesses, farmers, landowners, wastewater treatment service providers and researchers must be constructively debated and quickly implemented if further damage to the environment is to be avoided.

Division of Surface Water

Phone: (614) 644-2001 ~ Fax: 644-2745 ~ Contact

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 1049, Columbus, OH 43216-1049

Street Address: 50 West Town Street, Suite 700, Columbus, OH 43215

Report a Spill, Release or Environmental Crime

(800) 282-9378 or (614) 224-0946