DeWine announces results of statewide river water quality study

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 11, 2023

COLUMBUS — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Director Anne Vogel today announced that a comprehensive study of Ohio’s largest rivers shows tremendous improvements in water quality over the past several decades. 

Ohio EPA launched its first-ever comprehensive large rivers study beginning in 2020 to measure changes in water quality since the 1980s and to identify any current issues impacting water health. The study found that water quality has improved tremendously over the years,  with 86 percent of the state’s large rivers in good to excellent condition as compared to just 18 percent in the 1980s.

The report cites investments in agricultural soil conservation measures, improved wastewater infrastructure, and improved wastewater treatment as key reasons for the water quality improvements.

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“Water is truly one of Ohio’s greatest assets, and we have an obligation to preserve and protect it,” said Governor DeWine. “The health of Ohio’s rivers reflects years of work and investment by our local communities and by Ohio EPA, and we intend to continue working to ensure that our healthy rivers stay healthy and that that rivers that still need improvement are restored.” 

Ohio’s new operating budget, signed by Gov. DeWine last month, allocates $23.3 million per year to expand the H2Ohio initiative, which was launched by Governor DeWine in 2019 to focus on preventing algal blooms caused by agricultural nutrient runoff and to improve water infrastructure. The expansion of H2Ohio will create a river restoration program for large river tributaries, address river salinity, remove dams, and remediate water impacted by acid mine drainage. 

“We are excited to have good news to report about the conditions of our large rivers and streams,” Vogel said. “The additional H2Ohio funding will let us step up these efforts toward getting all our large rivers meeting water quality goals.”

Other notable improvements cited in the Ohio EPA study include:

• Major reductions in ammonia, total phosphorus, and lead in water chemistry;

• Downward trends in concentrations of PCBs and in metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium, and arsenic in fish;

• Steady improvements in the quality and diversity of fish and macroinvertebrate communities.

The Mohican River was the only river to show a significant decline in water quality caused by excessive levels of phosphorus and nutrients from agricultural runoff.

The full study is available at