Study of Whitewater River Tributaries Released

Public Comment Period Open through Nov. 25

The Whitewater River watershed in Southwest Ohio continues to be one of the highest quality river systems in Ohio. An Ohio EPA survey  of the watershed found a high diversity of fish and other aquatic species. Ohio EPA released the study today.

Ohio EPA is accepting public comments about the study, which can be found online, through Nov. 25, 2020.

While collecting fish and macroinvertebrates in the watershed, Ohio EPA found two state endangered species, the northern madtom catfish and a pollution sensitive mayfly (Rithrogena manifesta). This mayfly species has only been collected in Ohio from the Whitewater River.

Among other rare species found were Sloan’s crayfish, which is a threatened species in Ohio that is only found in southwest Ohio; a new population of bigeye chub; the brindled and stonecat madtoms; black and river redhorse; slenderhead darter; and gravel chub.

The Whitewater River watershed has its headwaters in Preble and Darke counties before flowing into Indiana. It re-enters Ohio in Butler and Hamilton counties and empties into the Great Miami River. Ohio EPA conducted the study primarily in 2017, with follow-up sampling in 2018 and 2019. The survey examined water quality, sediment chemistry, habitat, fish, and other aquatic life from the portions of the small streams and river mainstem within Ohio.

This was the first comprehensive biological and watershed survey of the Whitewater River system by Ohio EPA. Fifteen streams were surveyed, and more than 91 percent of the streams are meeting their aquatic life goals. Among streams surveyed for the first time, four are recommended for coldwater habitat. This includes Little Creek, Brinley Fork, Rocky Fork, and East Fork. Four streams, Sours Run, Howard Creek, Kiata Creek, and part of Dry Fork are recommended for exceptional warmwater habitat designation.

Only two locations had notable impairments. Welker Lateral is not meeting goals due to low flow and siltation, and Buck Run is impaired by an impoundment.

 The biological and water quality study is designed to assess the effects of various land uses, evaluate the influences of agricultural, industrial, and commercial discharges and spills, and assess the performance of permitted wastewater treatment plants. The study also evaluates the quality of fish and macroinvertebrate communities in the streams, compares results with historic conditions, and determines if streams are meeting designated aquatic life and human recreation uses.

Further details about the study, data, and maps are contained in the report. The study is the second step in Ohio EPA’s five-step Total Maximum Daily Load process.

Findings in the report, along with public comments received, may be developed into a Total Maximum Daily Load report, which is a plan to improve water quality in the watershed through potential permit limits on regulated dischargers and/or nonpoint source runoff reduction projects, whichever may be necessary to address water quality impairment at any given location. Ohio EPA works with local communities and watershed groups to implement projects and strategies to achieve water quality goals.

To comment on the study, email EPATMDL@epa.ohio.gov or write to TMDL Program, Ohio EPA Division of Surface Water, P.O. Box 1049, Columbus, OH 43216-1049. Comments are due by 5 p.m. on Nov. 25. Subscribe here for updates on this and other Ohio EPA Total Maximum Daily Load projects.


The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency was created in 1972 to consolidate efforts to protect and improve air quality, water quality and waste management in Ohio. Since then, air pollutants dropped by as much as 90 percent; large rivers meeting standards improved from 21 percent to 89 percent; and hundreds of polluting, open dumps were replaced with engineered landfills and an increased emphasis on waste reduction and recycling.

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