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About Us

Division of Surface Water Mission Statement

The division's mission is to protect, enhance and restore all waters of the state for the health, safety and welfare of present and future generations. We accomplish this mission by monitoring the aquatic environment, permitting, enforcing environmental laws, using and refining scientifically sound methods and regulations, planning, coordinating, educating, providing technical assistance and encouraging pollution prevention practices.

Who We Are

Ohio is a water-rich state with more than 25,000 miles of streams and rivers, a 451-mile border on the Ohio River, more than 5,000 lakes, ponds, and reservoirs (>1 acre), and 236 miles of Lake Erie shoreline. Ohio has 10 scenic rivers comprising more than 629 river miles, the fourth largest total of any state in the nation.

The Division of Surface Water is responsible for restoring and maintaining the quality of Ohio's rivers and streams. The goal of Ohio's surface water program -- restoration and maintenance of Ohio's water resources -- reflects the national water quality objective in the Federal Clean Water Act (CWA), which is "to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation's waters. The CWA objective is often referred to as the "fishable/swimmable goal."

The fishable/swimmable goal is different from the popular idea of clean water as being water that is chemically pure. Instead, fishable/swimmable waters are resources that support stable, balanced populations of aquatic organisms which are ecologically "healthy," and provide safe water to the people of Ohio for public and industrial water supplies and recreation.

The Division of Surface Water has a full time staff of approximately 240 located in Columbus and the five district offices. The division also employs approximately 50 interns during the summer to assist with biological and chemical water quality surveys. Funding for the division is comprised of federal and state monies as well as annual discharge fees.

The Tools We Use

The Division of Surface Water utilizes many tools in working to achieve its goals:

Regulation

  • National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits are issued to municipal and industrial wastewater and stormwater dischargers. Ohio has over 4,000 regulated facilities.
  • Permits-to-Install (PTI) are issued for construction of new or expanded wastewater facilities and sewers and for the disposal of sludge from wastewater treatment facilities. Over 2,000 PTIs are issued annually.
  • Indirect Discharge Permits are issued to discharges of industrial wastewater into public sewer systems.
  • Section 401 Water Quality Certifications are issued for the discharge of dredge and fill material to waters of the state.
  • Testing is conducted and certification is awarded to operators of water and wastewater treatment facilities to ensure baseline proficiency in various aspects of drinking water treatment and distribution and wastewater collection and treatment.

Technical Assistance

  • Operator assistance is provided to small community wastewater treatment plants experiencing compliance problems.
  • Pass-through funds for nonpoint source demonstration projects are provided.

Partnering

  • The pretreatment program is a partnership among USEPA, Ohio EPA and local communities for controlling the discharge of industrial wastewater into public sewer systems.
  • Lake Erie Remedial Action Plans (RAPs), which promote community based decision making for the correction of water quality concerns, are coordinated by the division.
  • Programmatic technical support is provided to the Division of Drinking and Ground Water and Division of Emergency and Remedial Response.
  • The division works together with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to implement the nonpoint source and wetlands programs.

Measuring

  • Biological and chemical water quality monitoring is conducted to assess quality of Ohio's lakes and streams.
  • Sampling of wastewater discharges is performed to monitor compliance with permit limits.
  • Inspections at regulated facilities are performed to ensure compliance with environmental regulations.

Planning

  • Water quality standards for Ohio are developed.
  • The Division has begun the process of shifting away from a traditional programmatic way of thinking (enforcement, permits, nonpoint planning, etc.) toward an ecosystem based approach. This approach, focusing on watersheds, will facilitate the creation of partnerships with local government and the general public resulting in community-based environmental management.
  • The Lake Erie Lakewide Area Management Plan (LaMP), which incorporates an ecosystem approach to the protection of Lake Erie and considerable public involvement, is coordinated by the division.