Ohio Nonpoint Source Pollution Control Program

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.

Twin Creek Preserve used funds from Ohio EPA for a wetland construction and stream restoration project that turned this highly visible urban watershed into a new streamside park. This 30-acre project was implemented by Mill Creek Watershed Council of Communities, City of Sharonville, Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati and Butler County Water and Sewer.

Ohio EPA's update to the Ohio Nonpoint Source (NPS) Management Plan was approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in June 2014. This important update provides direction and strategic focus to Ohio EPA's programs and activities geared toward reducing the impacts of nonpoint source pollution such as hydromodification, habitat alteration, polluted runoff and adds other activities like Invasive Species management and innovative storm water management demonstrations. Management Practices listed in the update are now eligible for federal Section 319 grant funding and grants awarded from other sources. Since Ohio EPA is not altering the scope of the previously updated nonpoint source management plan, a full revision to the Management Plan was not required. As a result, Ohio EPA focused updated strategies and practices only on programming actions for which Ohio EPA is the primary implementer and/or facilitator.

Ohio's approved NPS Management Plan update incorporates large sections from Ohio's recently submitted Nutrient Reduction Strategy. This information was derived following collaboration and input from a large number of agricultural and urban stakeholders. Moving forward Ohio's NPS Management Plan will implement several provisions of the Nutrient Reduction Strategy. Ohio's updated plan also incorporates objectives for Ohio EPA's Lake Erie Program, as well as strategies for dealing with NPS issues in urban waters as well as protection activities critical to protecting high quality waters. For information about Ohio's updated NPS Management Plan, contact Rick Wilson at (614) 644-2032.

Please check back, there are no Section 319 grant requests for proposals currently available.


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.

Annual Report

Section 319 Subgrant Success Stories

Section 319 Project Summary Reports

Section 319 Subgrant Guidance Sheets

Previous Year's Section 319 Grant Application Materials






General Section 319 Grant Documents

  • 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.

Nine-Element Nonpoint Source Implementation Strategies (9-Element NPS-IS) in Ohio

  • The 9-Element NPS-IS is a strategic plan that provides assurance to nonpoint source grant programs and institutions (i.e., U.S. EPA) that, as described, a proposed water quality project meets the 9 Essential Elements per U.S. EPA §319 Program Guidance (April 2013). 
  • For a project to be eligible for Ohio EPA Section 319 Funding, a proposed project must be described in a U.S. EPA-approved 9-Element NPS-IS for the HUC-12 watershed in which the project is located.
  • The NPS-IS ensures that potentially funded projects are: rooted in the best science available; located in areas that will address the worst problems; and that have the administrative, evaluation, and educational components needed to ensure that the water resource will achieve as much long term benefit as possible.  

  • The NPS-IS is a living strategic planning document that summarizes causes and sources of impairment, established critical areas, identifies quantifiable objectives to  address causes and sources of impairment, and describes projects designed to meet those objectives.

  • Each NPS-IS is unique at the HUC-12 scale. The NPS-IS is designed to evolve as projects come and go.  Likewise, every updated version (containing new projects and/or new data) must be reviewed and approved by Ohio EPA and U.S. EPA.

NPS-IS Plan Templates & Approved Plans

Contact For Additional Information

Rick Wilson, 614-644-2032

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


Additional Great Lakes Restoration Initiative project summaries are available in the Section 319 Program Annual Reports

Russ Gibson
Nonpoint Source Section Manager

Ohio EPA, Division of Surface Water
50 W. Town St., Ste. 700
PO Box 1049
Columbus, OH 43216-1049

(614) 644-2020 [voice]
(614) 644-2745 [fax]
email: russ.gibson@epa.ohio.gov