(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and directors of the Ohio Department of Agriculture, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, and Ohio Lake Erie Commission today outlined the progress made during the first year of the H2Ohio water quality initiative.
Launched by Governor DeWine in November 2019, H2Ohio is a comprehensive, data-driven water quality plan to reduce harmful algal blooms, improve wastewater infrastructure, and address lead contamination. The initiative is funded through a $172 million investment by the Ohio General Assembly over the current biennium.
“Our H2Ohio water quality plan is a long-term program designed to address the causes of Ohio’s water problems, not just the symptoms,” said Governor DeWine. “During the first year of the program, we’ve laid the groundwork that will allow us to begin reversing the serious water quality issues that have developed in Ohio over time. By investing to improve water quality in Ohio now, we can help ensure clean drinking water for the future.”
Ohio Department of Agriculture – Reducing Agricultural Phosphorus Runoff
Although studies have shown that phosphorus runoff from farms is the primary reason for algal blooms in Lake Erie, H2Ohio is the first state program to place a significant focus on addressing the root of the problem.
In H2Ohio’s first year, more than 1,800 producers in the Maumee River Watershed committed to developing nutrient management plans that include one or more H2Ohio best management practices (BMPs), which were identified through scientific and economic studies as the most effective and cost-efficient practices to reduce agricultural phosphorus runoff.
Exceeding initial expectations, a total of 1,815 producers representing 1,092,852 acres enrolled in the following BMPs:
- voluntary nutrient management plans – 1,092,852 acres
- variable rate application – 484,150 acres
- sub-surface nutrient application – 306,372 acres
- manure incorporation – 165,033 acres
- conservation crop rotation – 152,560 acres
- cover crops – 427,524 acres
Producers have also entered into agreements to construct 681 drainage water management structures which will be installed to manage nutrient runoff from over 10,000 acres of cropland.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) provides economic incentives to producers enrolled in the H2Ohio program to help offset the cost of implementing the BMPs. H2Ohio hopes to provide these incentives to producers in 10 additional counties outside the Maumee River Watershed in future phases of the project.
Partnerships with the Ohio Agriculture Conservation Initiative and Soil and Water Conservation Districts in the project area and have been essential in the project’s year-one success.
Additional information on ODA’s work to reduce agricultural phosphorus runoff through the H2Ohio initiative is available at h2.ohio.gov.
Ohio Department of Natural Resources – Naturally Reducing Phosphorus and Other Pollutants
Wetlands provide a nature-based solution to improve water quality by trapping, filtering, and removing excess pollutants and nutrients, like phosphorus, from the water before they flow into waterways like Lake Erie and contribute to harmful algal blooms.
In H2Ohio’s first year, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) invested $50 million in creating, restoring, and enhancing more than 5,500 acres of wetlands primarily focused in northwest Ohio in the western Lake Erie basin as well as upstream of inland lakes that have experienced harmful algal blooms in the past. Once the current projects are complete, approximately 80,000 acres of watershed will be filtered by H2Ohio wetland projects.
Partnerships with the Ohio Water Development Authority and 18 nonprofit conservation groups including Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, The Black Swamp Conservancy, county and local parks systems, soil and water conservation districts, the city of Toledo, and Toledo Port Authority have been essential in the development of these H2Ohio wetland projects.
Moving forward, H2Ohio hopes to broaden the impact of H2Ohio wetlands and expand into other parts of Ohio. ONDR will continue to form pivotal partnerships aimed at creating, restoring, and enhancing wetlands to provide a nature-based solution to reduce nutrient loading in the Western Lake Erie Basin.
Additional information on ODNR’s work to naturally reduce pollution and nutrient runoff through the H2Ohio initiative is available at h2.ohio.gov.
Ohio Environmental Protection Agency – Water Infrastructure, Monitoring, and Technology
H2Ohio is also working to enhance water quality and protect public health by improving Ohio’s water and wastewater infrastructure, replacing failed home sewage treatment systems, and reducing lead exposure in daycare centers.
In H2Ohio’s first year, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded a total of $2 million in funding for drinking water infrastructure projects in Pike County, Coshocton, and New Waterford. An additional $1.5 million in H2Ohio funding was awarded for wastewater projects in Pomeroy, West Milton, and Williams County. More than $1.7 million was awarded to health departments in seven Northwest Ohio counties to address failing household sewage systems, and $1.225 million has been invested in removing and replacing lead service lines and lead-containing fixtures at approximately 185 childcare facilities in Cincinnati.
H2Ohio is also working to develop a stronger stream monitoring network and is researching promising technologies for water quality improvements. Ohio EPA launched the H2Ohio Technology Assessment Program to identify technologies that may help address harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie.
In the future, Ohio EPA plans to continue to focus on improving Ohio’s water and wastewater infrastructure, replacing failed home sewage treatment systems, reducing lead exposure, and building a stronger stream monitoring network.
Additional information on Ohio EPA’s work to improve water infrastructure, monitoring, and technology through the H2Ohio initiative is available at h2.ohio.gov.
More information on H2Ohio’s accomplishments can be found in H2Ohio’s annual report. Data in the report reflects accomplishments in H2Ohio’s first fiscal year. The data outlined above reflects accomplishments in H2Ohio’s first calendar year spanning November 2019 to November 2020.