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IDEM has worked side by side with numerous locally-led watershed groups to help improve water quality. IDEM Clean Water Act grants and funds from a variety of innovative partnerships have helped clean up our rivers and streams by increasing education, developing effective water quality improvement plans, and helping individual landowners manage their land in ways that benefit our waterways. Over time, these projects have led to measurable improvements in water quality in our rivers, streams, and lakes. Read these case studies to learn more about what has been accomplished by working together and how these small actions have led to big changes. Check back often as we report on more successes of the people and the projects that are making a difference in the quality of water across Indiana.
Big Walnut Creek is in a predominately agricultural area in west-central Indiana's Hendricks and Boone counties. The East and West Forks of Big Walnut Creek flow south to form Big Walnut Creek, which eventually flows into the Eel River. Bacteria from livestock, leaking septic systems and wildlife polluted Big Walnut Creek. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) added three waterbody segments to Indiana's 1998 Clean Water Act (CWA) section 303(d) list of impaired waters for Escherichia coli bacteria. After additional monitoring, IDEM added three more segments to the impaired waters list in 2004. Using CWA section 319 funds, project partners installed best management practices and educated stakeholders about sound agricultural management throughout the watershed. Recent monitoring data show that the Big Walnut Creek segments meet water quality standards for bacteria, prompting IDEM to propose removing all six segments from the state's 2010 CWA section 303(d) list of impaired waters.
The Bull Run watershed headwaters lay within an agricultural area and its confluence with St. John Ditch lies within an urban area in northwest Lake County. Bull Run is the headwaters of West Creek which is also listed on the 2008 303(d) list for impaired biotic communities. In 2000, IDEM sampled for water quality in this section of the state to determine if waterbodies were impaired for IBC. Data for Bull Run in 2000 revealed an index of biotic integrity (IBI) score of 6. The result of this scoring was the listing of this segment on the 2002 CWA Section 303(d) List for Impaired Biotic Communities. Since 1990, IDEM funded, using CWA Section 319 and 205j funds, nine projects in the greater Lake County area. These projects included a locally-led development of a comprehensive watershed management plan, identification of critical areas and needed actions, and targeting of resources to the installation of urban and agricultural BMPs designed to improve water quality. The projects also funded technical expertise for the development and placement of agricultural BMPs. These projects resulted in improvements throughout the watersheds in the county, especially in the Bull Run/West Creek watershed - an improvement that allows IDEM to remove the listed streams in this watershed from the 2012 303(d) List.
Lower Clifty Creek flows through south-central Indiana in Bartholomew County, just southeast of Columbus. Agriculture is the watershed's primary land use. Two small streams, Sloan Branch and an unnamed tributary, contribute flow to Clifty Creek, which in turn empties into the East Fork White River. In 2002 IDEM assessed waterbodies in south-central Indiana to identify which were impaired for bacteria and would require a total maximum daily load (TMDL) report. Samples collected on lower Clifty Creek had levels of E. coli that exceeded both the single sample and geometric mean water quality standards for bacteria, prompting IDEM to add an 8.12-mile-long segment to the 2002 CWA section 303(d) list of impaired waters. Using Clean Water Act section 319 funds, project partners educated stakeholders about sound agricultural management and installed best management practices (BMPs) throughout the watershed. Data show that the lower Clifty Creek segment now meets water quality standards for bacteria, prompting Indiana to propose removing the segment from the state's 2010 CWA section 303(d) list of impaired waters.
The Pigeon Creek watershed lies within Posey, Warrick, Gibson, and Vanderburgh counties in southwestern Indiana. The creek flows south to the Ohio River, where its waters enter upstream of the city of Evansville's drinking water intake. Agriculture is the watershed's main land use. Pigeon Creek was impaired for chlordane and other priority pollutants from use of these chemicals on agricultural lands with poor stream buffers and high historic soil loss. Indiana placed 32 miles of this waterbody on its 303(d) list in 1996 and again in 1998 based on fish tissue data collected. Installing best management practices (BMPs) such as vegetated buffers and conservation tillage, combined with landowner education, produced a measurable improvement in water quality. As a result, Indiana removed Pigeon Creek from the 303(d) list in 2002.