High nitrate levels at a Columbus water plant last year led to a two-week, no-drink advisory for pregnant women and infants younger than 6 months old.
Preventing such problems drives the city of Columbus’ new, in-development Watershed Master Plan.
Consultancy CDM Smith leads the effort with help from, among others, specialists from Ohio State University Extension.
Myra Moss and Joe Bonnell, plus faculty emeritus Bill Grunkemeyer, are helping the firm identify and prioritize agricultural activities in the Scioto River, Big Walnut Creek and Alum Creek watersheds that could impact water reaching the city’s water plants.
Protecting Columbus’ watersheds “will help control treatment and reservoir operation costs and reduce risks in delivering safe drinking water,” said Julie McGill, water resources engineer with CDM Smith.
“The fewer contaminants entering the water plants,” said Bonnell, Extension’s watershed management program director, “the less technology — and money — required to remove those contaminants.”
Moss, Bonnell and Grunkemeyer have unique expertise in water issues, sustainable planning and consensus building.
“OSU Extension brings deep, unique experience in working with the agricultural community, developing comprehensive plans and delivering educational programs aimed at changing public behavior,” McGill said. “This lets them reach out to farmers and other stakeholders with simple, straightforward dialogue that can change mindsets.”
- Columbus’ Watershed Master Plan stands to benefit 1.1 million central Ohioans by safeguarding their drinking water sources and spending their water revenues wisely.
- Columbus’ main drinking water sources, the Scioto River and Big Walnut Creek, receive runoff from 1,200-plus square miles of land, 72 percent of which is agricultural, before reaching the city’s Dublin Road and Hap Cremean water plants.
- Runoff of fertilizer from farmland can be a major source of nitrates in the Scioto River.
- Other challenges when treating Columbus’ water include atrazine, a weed killer; Cryptosporidium, a protozoan sometimes in manure runoff and failing septic systems; and phosphorus from fertilizer, which can contribute to harmful algal blooms.
Learn more about the city’s watershed planning here.