Ohio Nonpoint Source Pollution Control Program

Nonpoint Source Pollution in Ohio

All pollution is not created equally. Traditional images of water pollution often consist of a pipe spewing industrial contaminants into a river. The Clean Water Act helped solve many of Ohio's traditional pollution problems. Remaining problems are more challenging and may be traced to two kinds of pollutants: polluted run off and physical alterations to a stream or river channel. These are referred to as nonpoint sources of pollution since they are the result of a land use and/or man-made changes to a river rather than flowing from a single point of discharge.

Polluted run off is rain or snow melt flowing across the land picking up contaminants such as sediment, nutrients or bacteria, carrying these pollutants to small streams that eventually flow into a larger river. Physical alterations are changes made to a stream channel or stream banks and include activities such as the conversion of headwater streams into drainage ditches, constructing levees and dams, and straightening a stream to encourage improved drainage. Physical alterations also include activities such as removing trees along a river bank or installing rock rip-rap on a river bank to prevent erosion.

Running WaterThe primary causes of nonpoint source impairment in Ohio streams are habitat alteration, hydro-modification to stream channels, sediment and excessive nutrients. Streams in agricultural areas of Ohio appear most frequently to be impaired by physical alterations, such as ditching, and impairments caused from excessive sediment and nutrients. Streams in urban and rapidly developing residential areas of the state are further impaired by nonpoint causes such as lowhead dams and nonpoint source contaminants carried off land surfaces by increased storm water runoff. In the coalfield regions of southeastern Ohio, another cause of impairment is abandoned mine drainage, which has impaired more than 1,300 miles of streams in the region.

Fortunately, management practices to address nonpoint source pollution are becoming more effective. Previous efforts to address these types of problems often consisted of implementing demonstration practices and trying new techniques for managing the ubiquitous nature of nonpoint source pollutants. Years of trial and error are resulting in a much broader understanding of management practices needed to restore impaired waters and improve water quality.

Physical alterations may be addressed using restoration practices such as removing lowhead dams, eliminating or modifying levees and restoring floodplains and riparian forest cover. Headwater streams previously converted into drainage ditches are effectively being restored using natural stream channel design techniques. Polluted run-off is being more effectively reduced using pollution prevention practices such as replacing failing home sewage treatment systems, installing riparian filter strips and controlled drainage systems or restoring ditches to 2-stage channels to allow for more natural stream function. Many other practices designed to slow the flow of nutrients from croplands, and sediment from mining sites and construction sites are also available to improve the health of Ohio's rivers and streams.

The Division is currently accepting proposals for 2014 Statewide SWIF Grants.  Go here for more information.

Developing a Plan to Address Nonpoint Source Pollution

Sediment StreamProvisions of the Clean Water Act call upon states to develop comprehensive plans to manage nonpoint source pollution in their rivers and streams. Ohio’s Nonpoint Source Management Plan was first completed in 1988 and consisted of more than 600 pages of detailed strategies for addressing water quality impairments. Subsequent revisions to the plan were completed in 1992, 1999 and, most recently, in 2005. The purpose of Ohio's Nonpoint Source Management Plan is to identify strategies implemented by Ohio's NPS partners to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of surface water bodies within the state. The short-term goal of the plan is to have 80% of the streams in Ohio in attainment with their designated aquatic life-uses by 2010.

Ohio’s most recent update to the Nonpoint Source Management Plan, entitled "Getting the Point about Nonpoint" was initiated in 2003 by a workgroup sponsored by the Ohio Water Resources Council and chaired by Ohio EPA and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. In addition to being a requirement of USEPA under provisions of the Clean Water Act, updating the NPS plan was a strategic priority action item of the Ohio Water Resources Council. Following two years of intensive effort, Ohio's NPS Management Plan was submitted to USEPA Region 5 during the summer of 2005 and subsequently approved during 2006. Several important changes are reflected in the revised plan, including:

  1. The revised plan is outcome based. Rather than simply measuring the quantity of nonpoint source management practices installed, the revised plan identifies specific environmental outcomes and representing a fundamental shift to actively restore waters impaired by nonpoint source causes.

  2. Program goals are integrated with regional, national and international water quality goals. The revised plan integrates existing strategies previously developed such as the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Control Strategy and the Lake Erie Protection and Restoration Plan. Additionally, the plan emphasizes the state's commitment to local watershed planning through such processes as TMDL studies and locally prepared watershed action plans.

  3. Targets are not program specific. Previous plans focused on administration of Section 319(h) grants and other state specific programs. The revised plan recognizes the broad array of programs supporting Ohio's nonpoint source management efforts. Rather than prescribing activities for each of the various programs, the planning process emphasized consensus building on desired environmental outcomes and a commitment to align program resources to meet these desired outcomes.

  4. The importance of local NPS implementation is emphasized. The revised plan outlines priority areas for implementation for each NPS cause of water quality impairment. However, a fundamental component of the revised plan is the increased emphasis on and commitment to local watershed action planning, endorsement and implementation.

  5. Environmental outcomes place an emphasis on stream integrity. Habitat alteration and hydro-modification are the leading causes of aquatic life use impairment in Ohio. Many land use activities change the shape and function of stream channels, reducing the ability of the streams to handle pollutant loads and destroying habitat necessary to support healthy aquatic ecosystems. The revised Ohio NPS Management Plan emphasizes the importance of maintaining and restoring self-sustaining stream channels in conjunction with reducing polluted runoff.

  6. Comprehensive approaches to addressing Ohio's nonpoint source pollution management are encouraged. Previous versions of the NPS plan identified listings of best management practices that could be funded by CWA section 319(h) grants. The revised plan identifies a comprehensive suite of management practices without regard to program-specific funding eligibility. The revised Ohio NPS Management Plan encourages a broad integration of various funding resources to achieve desired environmental outcomes.

  7. Accessibility to the plan is enhanced. Previous versions of Ohio's NPS Management Plan were extensive and cumbersome documents; exceeding 600 pages. The revised plan is internet based, thereby assuring broad access by all of Ohio's water quality partners.

Ohio's revised Nonpoint Source Management Plan is a dynamic document, reflective of the wide-spread nature of efforts and tools available to address this important water quality problem. A cornerstone of these efforts is Ohio's commitment to local watershed assessment, planning and implementation. Recent trends in protecting and restoring the health of Ohio's rivers is the formation of locally-based watershed groups comprised of volunteers, landowners, local officials, scientists and a host of concerned individuals. Watershed groups serve as important community advocates, forming a basis for local watershed planning and providing valuable support for local project implementation. When organized in advance of TMDL studies, these groups provide a wealth of information, assistance and the support needed for successful completion of TMDL studies.

Watershed action planning is a critical piece in Ohio's overall efforts to address nonpoint source pollution. Planning provides numerous benefits including:

  • Identifying locally-based water quality solutions

  • Linking financial resources to environmentally effective actions

  • Matching appropriate actions to known causes of NPS impairments

Copies of all state endorsed watershed action plans may be found at the following Ohio DNR ftp site: ftp://ftp.dnr.state.oh.us/Soil_&_Water_Conservation/WatershedActionPlans/EndorsedPlans/

    Improving water quality in a watershed requires a balanced approach. Ohio's Nonpoint Source Management Plan recognizes this need in part, by shifting from an activity-based strategy to an outcome-based approach. When examining the desired environmental outcomes articulated in Ohio's revised plan, it is clear that restoring impaired waters is the primary focus; it is equally clear that protecting existing high quality waters is also vital for success. An important benefit of watershed based planning —whether conducted as part of a locally produced watershed action plan or as a TMDL study — is that it requires looking at the watershed as a whole. This includes looking at the good stuff in a watershed, the bad stuff and the ugly.

    Little Darby CreekAreas where water quality and habitat conditions are good need to be protected while impaired areas need to be restored. And, in general, measures must also be taken to reduce nonpoint source pollution from ever reaching the waters. An effective watershed plan includes strategies for identifying these areas and implementing projects that will meet the river's needs and bring about the greatest environmental benefit in efficient ways. Ohio's NPS Management Plan includes provisions for protecting high quality waters as well as strategies needed to restore impaired waters.

    Knowing where to start can be a daunting task, especially in light of limited project funding and needs that far outweigh available resources. It is a necessary challenge to balance limited funding by carefully understanding where restoration practices should be completed and where protective measures should be implemented, and then matching these needs with the proper source of funding, participation and/or support. Ohio's revised NPS Management Plan attempts to do this on the statewide scale; local watershed action plans attempt to achieve this on the local level.

    Ohio's nonpoint source management partners are committed to a holistic approach to addressing water quality concerns. Programs such as the CWA Section 319(h) grants program administered by Ohio EPA are actively engaged in assisting local governments and watershed groups by providing much needed funding for local restoration projects. Farm bill programs such as Environmental Quality Improvement Program (EQIP) and Conservation Reserve Program are increasingly linking funding to local watershed plans and TMDL studies so that NPS pollution prevention practices are more effective at generating desired water quality improvements. Equally important are the funds provided by Ohio EPA's Water Resources Restoration Sponsor Program (WRRSP) and other programs within Ohio's Department of Natural Resources to protect our highest quality waters from further degradation. And there are specific projects being implemented designed to reshape the way Ohioan's actions within a watershed affect water quality in other portions of the watershed. Collectively, all of these efforts reflect the benefit of local watershed planning by linking multiple parties and programs together in a united effort to protect and restore Ohio's rivers and streams.

    Currently Reviewing Applications for:


    • Supplemental FFY2013 Section 319 Application Form [PDF] [DOC]

    • Other Match Form [DOC]


    In 1987 the federal Clean Water Act amendments created a national program to control nonpoint source pollution, established under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C 1329). Ohio EPA is the designated water quality agency responsible for administering the Ohio 319 program. Since 1990, Ohio EPA has annually applied for, received and distributed Section 319 grant funds to correct NPS caused water quality impairment to Ohio’s surface water resources. Section 319(h) implementation grant funding is targeted to Ohio waters where NPS pollution is a significant cause of aquatic life use impairments. The cornerstone of Ohio’s 319 program is working with watershed groups and others who are implementing locally developed watershed management plans and restoring surface waters impaired by NPS pollution.

    Application materials are available on-line as PDF files, or in either Microsoft Word 2003 or Microsoft Excel 2003 format. Right-click and save the Word and Excel files to your computer's hard drive before opening.

    Main Application

    HUC 11 Codes

    [DOC 431K]

    [Excel 56K]

    [PDF 201K]

    [PDF 17K]

    • FAQs - Local Match Contributions for 319 Grants

    • USEPA Volunteer Monitor's Guide to Quality Assurance Project Plans (QAPP)
      If new, quantitative environmental data or direct environmental measurements are taken as part of a 319 implementation grant, and the data will be used to draw environmental conclusions (such as, but not limited to: pollutant loading reductions, design criteria for management practice implementation, environmental management decisions, restoration options, mapping, field verification of data, etc.), the subgrantee must submit a QAPP to consistent with the above-referenced guidance.

    • 2003 Health and Safety Checklist
      This checklist is provided to outline key information to recognize and plan for potential field hazards when conducting water resource sampling and evaluation work per an Ohio EPA approved QAPP.

    Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Grants

    Sediment and Phosphorus Reduction in the Lye Creek Watershed, Hancock County

    For additional information, contact

    Russ Gibson
    Nonpoint Source Section Manager
    Ohio EPA, Division of Surface Water
    50 West Town Street, Suite 700
    P.O. Box 1049
    Columbus, Ohio 43216-1049
    (614) 644-2020 [voice]
    (614) 644-2745 [fax]
    e-mail: russ.gibson@epa.ohio.gov