Clermont County Watershed Management Program


"A major outcome of the County's work on the Wastewater Master Plan is the recognition that our wastewater system cannot be managed outside an overall water resources management strategy. Land use patterns, transportation, infrastructure, wastewater treatment, protection of drinking and surface waters, and the quality of the environment are too intertwined to be addressed independently." The Clermont County Watershed Management Program serves as the foundation for an overall water resources management strategy. This program provides a comprehensive framework for managing water quality and resources on a local watershed basis.

Another aspect of the overall water resources management strategy involves the County's participation in the Project XL for Communities (XLC) Program. This U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) program offers communities the opportunity to demonstrate eXcellence and Leadership, through locally-designed and directed alternative environmental management strategies. Clermont County's Project XLC is part of the County's overall Watershed Management Program, and provides an additional vehicle and incentive for moving the initiative forward.

U.S. EPA/Clermont County XLC Project page

Using the framework created by the Watershed Management Program, Clermont County is working to achieve a balance in the management of its valuable water resources... a balance that allows for long-term "sustainable" growth and development, and serves to protect and enhance the overall environmental quality of the County.

General Information: Overview of Watershed Management Program and Project XLC

Program Time Line: History and Progress on Watershed Management Program and Project XLC

Clermont County Water Quality Monitoring Program: Description and Sampling Data

Implementation of a Water Resources Management Strategy: Services and Plan of Action provided by Tetra Tech, Inc. Consultants

Stakeholder Support and Involvement: Committees, Activities and Actions

Useful Links: Other on-line sites to visit for related information

Water Resource Management

One drop of water is part of an ever-changing cycle. For one moment in time, Clermont County has custody of this drop, as it has custody of countless others that flow from border to border, through streams, lakes and rivers. Water is part of our lives - at play, at home and at work. We use the water and pass it on. However, we pass along more than just water. We introduce chemicals, biological organisms, and trash to the water as it runs through our county boundaries and consequently pass those along too.

Clermont County is at a critical point in its development history. More and more people are moving their homes and businesses to this county and using its water. The county has grown from 80,530 in 1960 to over 170,000 in 1999. We could reach a total of 200,000 people or more by the year 2020. Quiet counties like Clermont, once rural and serene are being catapulted into the next century, therefore, great efforts are being made to accommodate growth while attempting to maintain environmental quality.

The traffic congestion in the Eastgate area and other parts of western Clermont is a good example of growth outpacing planning efforts in recent decades.

Natural resource protection has become a serious concern and Clermont County is taking aggressive steps to safeguard and manage the East Fork of the Little Miami River Watershed. As a result, the County has looked ahead by developing a Wastewater Master Plan and recently updating its Solid Waste Plan.

If we fail to manage our natural resources, Clermont County will change from an area of growth and prosperity into an area that can't accommodate new citizens and new investments because our infrastructure and Mother Nature can't keep up with the demands we are placing on them. We must manage our environmental resources to assure that the quality of life in Clermont County remains uncompromised.

In the past, Clermont County, like other governments, relied on zoning and subdivision regulation to manage growth. As caretakers of Clermont's landscape and resources, our development-and-review process had not recognized the connection between land use and water quality. This needed to change.

Resulting from Clermont County's work on the Wastewater Master Plan, it was recognized that our wastewater system needed to become an integral part of an overall water resources management strategy. Land-use patterns, transportation infrastructure, wastewater treatment, protection of drinking water resources, and the quality of the environment are too intertwined to be addressed independently. If we continued to manage environmental and development issues with a fragmented and compartmentalized approach, we would not achieve satisfactory outcomes.

The County has taken a holistic approach to find the right balance between growth and quality of life. This approach considers Clermont's human and natural resources as one. Addressing water quality holistically means that all of the County must be considered as one system. For example, reducing point-source discharges from one specific industrial facility can reduce pollutant loading in one section of the river. Yet, if pollutant discharges from on-site wastewater treatment systems and farms exceed the pollutant discharge from the industrial facility, the overall effect is a greater amount of pollutants in our watershed. Clermont is requesting the regulatory flexibility to make decisions about discharge management via Project XLC which allows the county to get "more bang for its infrastructure bucks." To find the right balance between growth and quality of life, resource management changes have been made. Using taxpayer dollars in the most effective manner is a core objective of the Clermont County Watershed Management Program and Project XLC.

The Watershed Management Program provides the overall framework for managing Clermont County water resources. The XLC Program provides Clermont County, Ohio EPA, and the U.S. EPA the vehicle to support a partnership between these agencies and achieve the water quality goals we are all working towards.

As one of the fastest growing counties in Ohio, Clermont County must be aggressive and innovative if it is to maintain a balance between economic growth and preserve the natural character and environment of the County. The following vision statement has become the basis for the Wastewater Master Plan:



Clermont County should continue to be allowed to evolve as a desirable place to live and work; where "quality of life" factors are high; where a sound balance is maintained between short-term wants and long-term needs; where inevitable changes over time are managed so as to enhance, rather than degrade, the human environment; where quality, sustainable development and growth are supported and encouraged; and where irreplaceable natural resources are protected and recognized as critical to the aesthetic character and long-term well-being of the County.

In 1995, during the Plan's development, the County began to examine the policies and institutional structures necessary to develop and implement a watershed management strategy. At that time it became clear that the existing regulatory and administrative system had become a serious impediment to achieving our environmental goals.

The Ohio EPA regulates the discharge of point source loads like, wastewater treatment plants, within Clermont County but does not have responsibility to regulate many factors that directly impact environmental quality including land use, on-site household wastewater systems (i.e. septic systems), or other non-point source loads. The Ohio EPA attempted to improve water quality conditions within the Little Miami River basin by reducing loadings only from point source loads under their jurisdiction. This was attempted by increasing the requirements of those facilities who, by federal law, must apply for an EPA National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit. As with any river system, the Little Miami River receives both point and non-point source loads. In many river systems, the point sources under Ohio EPA jurisdiction contribute less than 30% of all pollutant loads. The Ohio EPA's targeting of only point source loads (i.e. those facilities required to apply for and adhere to conditions outlined in the NPDES Permit) may not only prove to be futile but ultimately counter productive.

To achieve water quality goals while maintaining sustainable growth in Clermont County, the County leaders have taken responsibility for protecting the quality of its water resources.

The County's focus has primarily been on the section of the East Fork of the Little Miami River (EFLMR) Watershed located within the County borders. This area more than any other within the County is critical to achieving the County's vision. The following factors steered the County in its decision to focus on the East Fork.

  • Harsha Lake is a major source of potable water for the residents of the county;
  • East Fork State Park, is a regionally significant park surrounding Harsha Lake;
  • The location of closed hazardous and toxic waste landfill above Harsha Lake where significant water quality sampling and monitoring continues;
  • The East Fork is a tributary to a National and State Designated Scenic river;
  • Rapidly urbanizing landscape;
  • Major point source discharges exist throughout the entire East Fork River.

The County's program includes:

1. Collaborative Goal Setting - On a state level water quality goals are dictated by the Ohio EPA and are translated into NPDES discharge permit limits, which then become a tool for achieving water quality. Although the Ohio EPA should retain significant responsibility in protecting the waters of the state, the County also has a considerable stake in protecting its environmental quality and has different tools and resources at its disposal. It was decided that Ohio EPA, Clermont County, citizens, businesses, local governments agencies, and non-profit organizations should collaboratively establish water quality goals for the watershed. Subsequently, the primary responsibility for achieving those goals now rests at the local level through Project XLC.

Throughout the program, Clermont County has actively sought and included the community and professional input through a series of "stakeholder"meetings. The involvement of these watershed stakeholders in the program provides the County and participants with an improved understanding of the watershed. Another objective is that informed stakeholders actively participate in the selection of measures to be implemented to improve and manage water quality issues for years to come. Technical guidance and evaluations are provided to the stakeholders by a designated group of local scientists known as the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC).

2. Sampling and Monitoring Program - The East Fork of the Little Miami River (EFLMR) is a major tributary to the Little Miami River, which is designated State and National Scenic River and is the State of Ohio's largest Exceptional Warmwater Habitat stream. Water quality standards within Ohio are based upon aquatic life habitat and water supply designations. As part of its ongoing watershed management efforts Clermont County collected data in 1998 from 12 stations along the mainstream of the EFLMR and 12 stations from its tributaries. In all, over 30 parameters are monitored for water quality. During 1998, the monitoring sites were sampled on a regular basis as part of a one- or two- week circuit. The locations of the monitoring sites were selected to characterize water quality within the EFLMR and to identify potential sources of detected pollutants.

The monitoring program:

  • Provides detailed data on the existing environmental conditions;
  • Helps ascertain the impacts of point and non-point pollution on the river;
  • Provides data, based on a scientifically defensible experimental design, sufficient to refine Ohio EPA water quality data to assist in the collaborative goal setting process;
  • Provides a means to measure the success of the program;
  • Allows more timely intervention and management of human impacts upon the watershed;
  • Provides the basis for a predictive model to aid in the development of a county environmental protection strategy.

Results from the sampling program are compiled in a structured database of information pertaining to the chemical and biological characteristics of the EFLMR. This database, which continues to be updated with new results, serves as the basis for continued development of the County's environmental protection strategy.

3. Development of a Watershed Model - A comprehensive watershed management program requires a simulation framework for assessing the impacts of proposed policies. Such a tool can be used to:

  • Predict and test the effectiveness of land-use management policies and revise them as necessary;
  • Determine the need for establishing or modifying permitting requirements and performance criteria for existing point and non-point loading sources;
  • Determine the need for and locations of additional treatment facilities or other control measures;
  • Provide a means for allocating credits for achieving water quality benefits within the watershed.
  • Predict water quality impacts when land use changes.

As part of the County's watershed management program, computer-based models will be selected and integrated to provide a comprehensive tool for predicting the impact of various physical improvements and management strategies on water quality in the EFLMR. The simulation system will serve as a key tool in the County's efforts to develop and implement specific, cost-effective strategies for protecting water quality in the EFLMR.

4. Development of the Office of Environmental Quality- The County has established an Office of Environmental Quality to coordinate County, Federal, and State resources and provide an administrative framework to carry out the environmental management strategies documented in a County Watershed Management Plan. The Plan spells out the steps the County will take to achieve the agreed-upon water quality goals.

5. Local Issuance of "PTI's" - Project XLC provides authority for the County to assume responsibility for evaluating the effectiveness of capital projects as well as policy changes in achieving established water quality goals. As specific actions are undertaken, procedures for monitoring the impacts of the action are incorporated into the water quality sampling program. If actions do not achieve the predicted and desired results, changes are made and the model is re-calibrated, effecting modification to the County Watershed Management Plan.

Watershed Management Program and Project XLC Evaluation Criteria

1. Environmental Results

  • Improvement or stabilization of water quality and biological conditions in sensitive waterways
  • Protection of drinking water supply for County
  • Reduction of hazards associated with failing on-site systems
  • Maintenance of the Exceptional Warm Water Habitat designation by the EPA

2. Stakeholder Support

  • Continued involvement of large number of stakeholders "Partnership for Water Quality"
  • Increased participation of stakeholders

3. Economic Opportunity

  • Action required to enable County to continue to support economic growth and development while protecting water quality

4. Feasibility

  • Local control approach is a more cost-effective means of meeting water quality goals than the traditional point source controls
  • County is committed to the implementation of cost-effective watershed management activities

5. Transferability

  • Approach developed in Clermont readily transferable to other developing counties or watersheds
  • Approach is consistent with EPA effluent trading policy

6. Monitoring, Reporting and Evaluation

  • Function of the Office of Environmental Quality (OEQ)
  • Ongoing water quality sampling and monitoring program provides a ready means of monitoring progress and impacts of specific actions on water quality throughout the watershed

7. Equitable distribution of Environmental Risks

  • This local approach does not result in increased in environmental risks. Impacts of all actions are monitored to verify benefits and identify adjustments needed on an ongoing basis.

8. Community Planning

  • The watershed management program brings together community planning efforts related to wastewater management and land-use planning/zoning under the umbrella of water quality protection. It serves as the basis for continued use of an integrated approach to community planning involving County, municipal, and township officials as well as members of the Board of Health, environmental groups, the development community and the general public.

9. Innovative Approaches

  • The program is structured to make use of innovative approaches to water resource management (i.e. small diameter gravity sewers, seasonal discharge/non-discharging small community wastewater systems, innovative pollutant trading etc.) where they provide cost-effective and solutions to environmental concerns, ones that can be implemented.

10. Enforcement and Compliance History

  • Records continuous improvements by County

Clermont County's Wastewater Master Plan was initiated in December, 1992 and completed in May, 1995. The proposal for Project XLC was submitted in June of 1996 and continues to evolve.


The objective of the water quality monitoring program is to obtain baseline water quality, sediment quality and biological data for the East Fork of the Little Miami River (EFLMR). The data is to be used in the development and ongoing calibration of a water quality model for the EFLMR Watershed. Based upon data and findings from this monitoring and modeling work, pollutant loadings from point and nonpoint sources in the Watershed can be identified and quantified. Ultimately, informed decisions are being made and appropriate actions taken to collectively manage these pollutant loadings, and the overall water quality of the Watershed.

Monitoring Program

The County's current monitoring program was initiated in 1996, and includes the collection of both water chemistry and biological data in portions of the EFLMR Watershed. Historical data sources within the EFLMR extend back to 1965 and include monitoring programs undertaken by Clermont County as part of its NPDES monitoring requirements, the United States Geological Survey (USGS), Ohio EPA, and United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). Through a unique public/private partnership. Additional data has also been gathered by Procter and Gamble environmental scientists and is shared with Clermont County.

Thirty two (32) surface-water sampling sites were chosen by the County in 1998 to collect year-round weekly or bi-weekly water chemistry data within the EFLMR and biological sampling from sic to nine sites. Monitoring consisted of manually collecting grab samples and was not timed in response to events such as rainfall. The sampling stations are distributed among various portions of the watershed to address a multitude of environmental management goals and regulatory requirements. The sampling approach includes 24 different sampling parameters, consisting of general, nutrient, bacteria and metals assays. The sampling plan called for sampling of each site for the following water quality parameters: temperature, pH, conductivity, hardness, D.O., CBDO5, SS, TVSS, Chlor-A, TKN, Nitrate/Nitrite, Ammonia, Atrazine, PTOT, PDIS, PO4DIS, PO4-O, e-coli. , and monthly sampling for the metals including: Silver (Ag), Cadmium (Cd), Chromium (Cr), Copper (Cu), Nickel (Ni), and Lead (Pb). Grab samples were collected and analyzed using standard methods for water and wastewater. Sediment samples were also collected from a small number of these and other sites. Five automated water quality samplers were installed at Shayler Run, Stonelick Creek, Newtonsville Creek, Kain Run and in the EFLMR mainstream at Williamsburg in 1998 to determine pollutant loading of storm events from various types of land use within the EFLMR Watershed.

Brief Summary of 1998 Chemical Monitoring Results

Sites were sampled at weekly or bi-weekly intervals throughout the entire calendar year, however, number of parameters and samples per site varied considerably.

A relationship between nutrient loads, land use, and pollutant management practices is indicated by data collected during 1998. This review is being conducted as part of the ongoing watershed model development.

The only applicable surface water quality standard for nutrients is for total ammonia nitrogen. No samples collected within the EFLMR for 1998 exceed the standard except for one instance on July 23, 1998 in Hall Run tributary, above the mainstream of the EFLMR and any wastewater treatment plant. A high reading of E. coli also occurred on the same day in Hall Run, indicating that a septic release may have occurred.

A review of grab samples collected for dissolved oxygen indicated that the applicable surface water quality standard for the 24-hour average was not exceeded for any site except one. The site, located below Harsha Lake Dam, is affected by the reservoir and indicated a short-term (less than one day) dissolved oxygen minimum value below 5.0 ug/L.

E. coli is the agent used for indicating the presence of human pathogens in surface water. Ohio does have applicable surface water quality standard for fecal coliforms but not E. coli. Therefore, no evaluation of the potential impacts of human pathogens has been conducted for 1998. A methodology used to analyze for E. coli is to be added to the monitoring program.

Atrazine was sampled for this program for the first time in 1998. A drinking water standard of 3.0 ug/L does exist. Atrazine was detected three times in the summer of 1998 in slight excess of 3.0 ug/L.

High chloride concentrations are associated with some, but not all, road crossings. Additional sampling will help to determine if this information correlates with road salt applications and the paths of stormwater runoff to the receiving streams.

None of the metals values for 1998 exceeded applicable surface water quality standards.

Brief Summary of 1998 Invertebrate Community Sampling Results

The results of this study is currently being evaluated and are pending.

Tetra Tech, Inc. is one of the foremost consulting firms in the country in the fields of watershed modeling and water resource planning and management. Tetra Tech has contracted to provide environmental services to the County in a wide variety of technical and support activities that assists the County in achieving its goals for water resources management.


Task 1. Continued Development of a Stakeholder Involvement Plan

  • Maintain Database of Clermont County Stakeholders
  • Develop Stakeholder Questionnaires
  • Update Stakeholder Involvement Plan

Task 2. Review and Recommendations - Water Quality Monitoring Plans

  • Review 1998 Monitoring Results
  • Screening Level Review of 1998 Sampling Plan
  • Phase I Watershed Characterization Report
  • Draft Sampling and Monitoring Recommendations
  • Final Sampling and Monitoring Recommendations
  • Participate in Scientific Advisory Meetings

Task 3. Support to the County on Project XLC Project

  • Participate in Conference Calls
  • Attend Stakeholder Meetings

Task 4. Integration with the County GIS System

  • Review of Current GIS System
  • Data Exchange
  • Sub-basin Delineations
  • Identify Other Data Sources
  • Identify and Recommend Potential Applications

Task 5. Evaluation of Wastewater Effluent and Nonpoint Source Trading Options in the Watershed and Evaluation of Potential Modeling and Assessment Tools

  • Effluent Trading Options Paper
  • Pollutant Loading Assessment
  • TMDL Evaluation

Task 6. Development of the Water Resources Strategic Management Plan - Phase I/II

  • Water Resources Strategic Management Plan
  • Conceptual Model Design
  • Identification of Local Impact Tools and techniques

Task 7. Technical Review and Consultation as Necessary

  • Technical Consultation as Necessary

Science Advisory Committee (SAC)

This committee is comprised of a group of scientific experts in water quality and related fields (i.e. toxicology, bio-chemistry, entomology, and ichthyology) and has been established to provide guidance and technical support to the Clermont County Watershed Management Program and Project XLC.

Stakeholder Group

Stakeholder Group: This multi-sector group is made up of local government, organizations, private business, citizens, and others who have a stake or interest in the Watershed Management Program or Project XLC.

Check out these sites for additional information about water quality and watershed protection:

US EPA Project XL Homepage

US EPA Homepage

US EPA Office of Water

USGS National Water Quality Assessment Program

Ohio EPA Homepage

Ohio EPA Division of Surface Water

Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Soil and Water Conservation

Natural Resource Conservation Service (USDA)

Clermont Soil and Water Conservation District

ORSANCO (Ohio River Valley Sanitation Commission)

OKI (Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana Regional Council of Governments)

Ohio Department of Agriculture

Little Miami, Inc.

Izaak Walton League

Wild on Watersheds

Clermont County General Health District