FA-2 (6/24/05 version)
Future Actions: Getting To An Ohio NPS Research Agenda


How do raindrops collectively interact with the land to affect the quality of our surface and ground waters, and how can we minimize the negative consequences of human interference with this interaction? The varied and complex paths water can travel as it flows across the landscape to form our familiar bodies of water, e.g. wetlands, streams, rivers, lakes, estuaries, and oceans can make it a daunting challenge to answer this seemingly simple question.

Due to time and resource constraints, target development for the NPS Plan 2005-2010 was focused on funding, watershed action planning and implementation, and environmental targets and priorities. However, as the introductory questions point out, NPS Work Group members agreed that there were a number of additional topic areas, including developing a NPS research agenda, that needed state-wide attention.

Consequently, the NPS Work Group identified the "as is" and "desired" states for NPS research as follows:

"As is" State
Nonpoint source related research in Ohio is a decentralized component of specific water resource programs; conducted on an as-needed basis as funds allow.

"Desired" State
Ohio has a state-wide research agenda with an annual budget of $1-2M to fund it; and a formal process to document institutional buy-in from NPS partners to research results that have already been provided.

State NPS partners should consider development of criteria or thresholds at which research questions rise to the level of a statewide NPS research priority. The following threshold ideas are included merely as examples to generate discussion:

  • A threshold number of agencies or programs agree on the relevance and benefit of the research;
  • The issue or question is relevant to a significant portion of the state.
  • The lack of understanding or information necessitating research is identified as a major impediment to achieving the goal of the "80% aquatic life use attainment goal."
  • Information or analysis will enable dramatic improvements to the delivery of a state NPS related program or programs.

Although many successes have occurred from a "trial and error" approach to solving specific nonpoint source related problems, common sense and experience dictates that research and application of the scientific method will produce better understanding and more widely applicable solutions to existing problems. In some cases, seemingly unrelated research, can have significant implications for NPS. For example, a slug eradication problem in Ohio agricultural areas, if not solved, could jeopardize the viability of no-till practices as a NPS management measure. These assertions form the basis of the Nonpoint Source Workgroup desire to develop a comprehensive and prioritized nonpoint source program research agenda for Ohio.

Investigating Research Needs

In December 2003, NPS Work Group member organizations were invited to respond to the questions listed below. Questionnaire findings are presented in the sections on "Current NPS Research" and "Research Needs".

It is important to note that these results represent a "sampling" of NPS research currently underway and needed and are not intended to be exhaustive or well-refined. It is also clear that respondents interpreted the term "research" very broadly to include the need for data organization and analysis, resource inventory, assessment and monitoring, and evaluation.

The intent behind the questionnaire was to frame the issue only. There are undoubtedly many more examples in each category. The results are presented here as a basis for future discussion and action on developing a statewide NPS research agenda. In addition, the Ohio Water Resources Council (OWRC) has also been exploring water resource research needs, and there is likely overlap with some of the issues identified below.

Research Questions:

  • Does your program do NPS research? If yes, please specify;
  • Does your program use key NPS research findings to guide routine NPS activities? If yes, please specify what and how;
  • What are some key research results that you need to guide/improve routine NPS activities?

Current NPS Research

Ohio EPA 319 program is currently funding research to :

  • Evaluate enabling legislation in other states to determine options for watershed-based implementation of storm water controls;
  • Analyze urban land use impacts on water quality to determine level of water quality that is possible in urban streams and key variables that control it;
  • Determine bankfull hydrologic curves for streams in the Hocking basin and the southern boundary of the karst region in NW Ohio;
  • Identify the public health risks associated with putting a conventional HSTS in severely rated soils. and c) what is the risk of continuing the practice of installing leach lines in seasonally saturated soils?
  • Conduct Source Water Area Protection (SWAP) studies in Waynesville and the north-central Ohio karst protection area to better understand sinkhole formation mechanisms and identify critical drinking water protection.

OSU Extension (OSUE):

  • An OSU masters student is researching how grass roots (versus government-led); local watershed groups are relating to government agencies. Research results will be used by OSUE to identify barriers to public participation in implementation efforts.
  • Exurban Land Use Change, Watershed Management, and Surface Water Quality - Using statistical analyses of Ohio EPA data, project is investigating differences between agricultural and developed land on the urban fringe in terms of biodiversity (fish and aquatic insect species). Using four Cleveland area sub-watersheds as case studies, project analyzes whether there are significant differences between participatory management and state-centered watershed management. Results will help to determine how future resources might best be focused.
  • Research on the effects of tile drainage of cropland evaluated drainage water quality over a 14-year period on Toledo silty clay. Results indicated that subsurface drainage reduced the losses of sediment, phosphorus and potash by 40, 50, and 30 percent, respectively, compared to surface drained cropland. However, nitrate-N losses increased by 40 percent. Over a 17-year period, runoff from land that was subsurface drained was lower than that from land that was not subsurface drained, and peak runoff was reduced by about 32 percent.

ODNR Division of Mineral Resources (DMRM): contracts for applied research projects through various partners (including USGS, the National Mine Land Reclamation Center, and Ohio University - ILGARD) for modeling of watershed restoration, assessment of complex AMD problems to determine a best problem-solving approach, address the problem, and post-construction assessment to determine if a project is accomplishing its overall goals. In addition, if a specific problem develops at a site that is not understood, DMRM will contract for an evaluation of the problem in order to repair or prevent a future problem of a similar nature;

Ohio EPA Division of Drinking and Ground Water: has conducted special water quality studies to document impacts to drinking water and ground water quality. Examples include:

  • Water Quality Characterization Program to evaluate sensitivity of aquifers to contamination, long-term trends in ground water quality (e.g. increasing, decreasing trends in Chloride, Nitrate, etc).
  • Special Studies such as the Elizabethtown Project in Hamilton County, Ohio, an unsewered town with 10 Class V injection wells and six public water supplies (PWSs). Most PWSs had elevated nitrate levels. A study was conducted to examine the relationship between the Class V injection well/private septic systems and the water quality of PWS and private wells.

Ohio Department of Health cites existing research that could serve to improve programs related to HSTS systems including: DRAINMOD (modeling of curtain drain impacts on perched water tables), pathogen treatment through soil profiles, impacts of oxygen transfer, effluent distribution, and time for treatment of sewage in the soil. Efforts are needed to increase buy-in of general public and local officials that research results can serve as foundation for future actions.

USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service: has a Partnership Management Team (PMT) that identifies national research needs. NRCS is also implementing the Conservation Effects Assessment Program (CEAP) nationally. In particular, Heidelberg College is conducting some research to support CEAP implementation in Ohio.

ODNR, Division of Soil and Water Conservation, Soils Section: is planning to research soil quality outcomes from applied Core 4 management practices in White Oak, and East Fork watersheds in late 2004-early 2005.

USEPA, Great Lakes National Program Office (GLNPO) GLNPO is funding the University of Minnesota at Duluth to develop a consensus-based classification system for the five Lake Erie habitat zones and apply this integrated habitat classification system to pilot watersheds. The data will be compiled to produce an integrated habitat map, ultimately detailing the complete landscape of Lake Erie habitats in a common format for the United States and Canada. The need for this project has been identified as a fundamental element of the Lake Erie LaMP Habitat Strategy;

USGS, in partnership with the City of Columbus, sediment monitoring in Hellbranch Run, a tributary to the Big Darby Creek; in partnership with ODNR-DMRM, chemical and biological water quality studies in coal mining impacted Rush Creek and selected tributaries; also in partnership with ODNR-DMRM, water quality data collection to determine pre- and post- reclamation conditions in Little Raccoon Creek; in partnership with the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, Cleveland Metroparks, and Ohio Lake Erie Office, developing a system for "nowcasting" bacterial levels and beach advisories at Huntington Beach, Bay Village, Ohio; in partnership with the Ohio Water Development Authority (OWDA) and Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District,investigating the use of fecal contamination with the National Park Service, investigation a method to rapidly estimate fecal indicator bacteria concentrations in the Cuyahoga River within Cuyahoga Valley National Park; in partnership with the University of Toledo, Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments, the cities of Oregon and Toledo, and OWDA identifying potential sources of fecal contamination in Maumee Bay.

Ohio Water Resources Council: has established an Ohio Workgroup for Water Resource Monitoring (WWRM) to promote the effective collection, interpretation and dissemination of water resource and other environmental data necessary to provide for comprehensive water resource management.

NPS Research Needs

Erosion / Sedimentation

  • Sediment transport analysis / modeling;
  • Investigate the relationship of erosion and transport/delivery of sediment and nutrients in surface and subsurface flows. Said another way, determine how much sediment ends up in the stream AFTER a conservation practice is installed and where does it go? Some current research is underway in the Upper Auglaize and it is hoped that the results will be applicable to other watersheds in Ohio. Another potentially helpful source of the needed information is the TNC Freshwater Initiative that looks at what comes off land and effects in stream.

Resource inventory/analysis

  • Develop rapid assessment methodology to determine how many acres of forest are harvested annually in Ohio;
  • Maintain statewide system of stream gages to support a multitude of chemical and stream integrity evaluations done by Ohio NPS partners.

Nutrient Management

  • Develop ambient water quality standards (PDF 747kb) for nitrogen and phosphorus;
  • Evaluate effectiveness of wetlands for removing nitrate from urban or agricultural storm water run-off in Ohio;
  • Investigate causal conditions and management options for controlling preferential flow of liquid manure through drainage tile;

Stormwater Management

  • Investigate methods and feasibility of watershed-based planning that incorporates water quality restoration activities, i.e., wetland preservation, restoration, and expansion; riparian preservation and restoration options; buffers around parking lots, etc., specifically to accomplish stormwater detention goals on a watershed basis, and devise means to accurately account for the environmental and stormwater detention benefits (different than conventional stormwater detention structures);

Natural Channel Design/Stream Management

  • Determine the water quality effects and expectations of restoration applications, especially natural channel restoration;
  • Evaluate appropriateness of natural channel design techniques for Ohio;
  • Determine whether it is more cost effective long-term to maintain a natural or 2-stage channel than a traditionally maintained trapezoidal drainage ditch;
  • Determine the most effective urban stream restoration techniques for achieving attainment of aquatic life use standards;

Social / Behavioral

Abandoned Mine Drainage

  • Evaluate new technologies;
  • Evaluate different sources of steel slag and lime kiln dust for quality and effectiveness;
  • Conduct bench studies using AMD from different sites and specific reagents to analyze sludge production;
  • Evaluate existing open limestone channel to assess water quality, and variables from site to site such as slope, x-section, bedding, and flow;
  • Develop methodology to analyze sulfur content in limestone and determine correct threshold for use in treatment systems;
  • Investigate and/or develop more economical alternatives to mushroom compost for successive alkalinity producing systems (SAPS);

Drinking Water Quality

  • Analyze ground water data to determine where ground water quality has been impacted from NPS practices and reveal data gaps;
  • Investigate ability/methods of tracking the source of nitrates in ground water causing exceedances of safe drinking water standards;
  • Evaluate effects of land application and other NPS impacts within susceptible drinking water protection areas on drinking water quality; Evaluate effects of human and animal waste disposal and management practices on drinking water qualtity in sensitive aquifers (with an emphasis on shallow sand and gravel aquifers and near surface fractured bedrock aquifers);
  • Monitor surface and ground water interactions in hydrologic settings where rapid exchange between surface water and ground water occurs. In particular, monitoring efforts should focus on areas where the interaction has the potential to impair water resources. Knowledge about the rate of exchange of water between surface and ground water will significantly benefit surface water and ground water modeling efforts.
  • Evaluate significant nonpoint source pollution threats to surface water sources of drinking water.


  • Determine the additional monitoring needs statewide for both surface and ground water;