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Indiana State Department of Agriculture

ISDA > Divisions > Soil Conservation > Western Lake Erie Basin Western Lake Erie Basin

The Western Lake Erie Basin (WLEB) is one of our nation’s most significant collections of inland rivers and streams. The WLEB covers over 7 million acres and it encompasses most of northwest Ohio, as well as portions of northeast Indiana, and southeast Michigan.  Specific to Indiana, it covers parts of Steuben, DeKalb, Allen, Noble, Adams and Wells Counties. Around 75 percent of the land is in agricultural production. Approximately 1.2 million people live in the Basin, distributed between three urban centers, Toledo, Ohio; Fort Wayne, IN; Lima, Ohio and numerous cities and towns.  

During the 1970s and 1980s, water quality in the Basin was impaired by algal blooms. At that time, particulate phosphorus that attached to soil particles was considered the culprit for the impaired conditions. With assistance from the Natural Resource Conservation Service, State Departments of Agriculture and Soil and Water Conservation Districts, as well as many other agencies, farmers began to implement no-till and conservation tillage into their farms and the phosphorus loads were greatly reduced.

Unfortunately, since the mid-1990s algal blooms have been on the rise. According to recent studies, it appears that Dissolved Reactive Phosphorus (DRP) (soluble phosphorus) is considered to be the main problem. This form is a ready food source for algae and plays a factor to the rapid growth resulting in algae blooms. However, new data suggests fertilizer phosphorus left on the surface, when followed by heavy rainfall, can be a major source of phosphorus loading in surface water. (Our Water, Our Future, 2013) The increased levels of nutrients flowing into Lake Erie during precipitation events have resulted in massive Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) throughout the summer and fall months of 2010 and 2011.   

Indiana is working with landowners in our communities to help improve the water quality of our streams and inland rivers, and ultimately Lake Erie. The Indiana State Department of Agriculture is partnering on several projects which will result in a significant measurable load reduction in total phosphorus in the St. Joseph, St. Marys, Upper Maumee and the Auglaize watersheds through the leadership of training, education, promotion, development  and installation of voluntary water quality programs and best management practice installation, nutrient management plan development, soil testing and training, water quality grant development & implementation, guidance & assistance for best management practice implementation through federal, state & local agencies and non-governmental organizations, coordination of the 4Rs of Nutrient Stewardship Program with agricultural industry, landowners & producers, implementation of Great Lake Restoration Initiatives & Clean Water Indiana projects. In 2015, Indiana received record rainfall within the Western Lake Erie Basin (see charts and maps below). 

Indiana WLEB Initiatives

WLEB Story Map - Indiana's Commitment to Enhance Water Quality in the Western Lake Erie Basin

Western Lake Erie Basin Partnership

Indiana's Nutrients Annex (Annex 4) Domestic Action Plan (DAP)

Indiana Conservation Partnership - 2014 Western Lake Erie Basin Nutrient and Sediment Load Reductions

Indiana Conservation Partnership - 2015 Western Lake Erie Basin Nutrient and Sediment Load Reductions

Indiana Department of Environmental Management - Maumee River Watershed Management Plan

Indiana Department of Natural Resources - Lake and River Enhancement Program

Indiana Soil and Water Conservation District Initiatives

Indiana USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service - Western Lake Erie Basin Initiative

Indiana USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service - Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

The Nature Conservancy Initiatives

Fish Creek: 20 Years in Northeastern Indiana

Restoring and Connecting Habitats

Restoring Coastal Wetlands: Erie Marsh

Two-stage Ditches

Western Lake Erie Basin Information

National WLEB Initiatives

United States Environmental Protection Agency - Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement Recommended Binational Phosphorus Targets

United States Environmental Protection Agency - Lake Erie

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service - Western Lake Erie Basin Project


WLEB Action Plan

4Rs of Nutrient Stewardship

Map of Western Lake Erie Basin

Map of Western Lake Erie Basin Accumulated Precipitation - March 1 thru August 10, 2015

Map of Western Lake Erie Basin Average 30-Year Rainfall - March 1 thru August 10

Graph of Berne, Indiana Accumulated Rainfall - March 1 thru August 1, 2015

Graph of Decatur, Indiana Accumulated Rainfall - March 1 thru August 1, 2015

Graph of Fort Wayne, Indiana Accumulated Rainfall - March 1 thru August 1, 2015

INField Advantage WLEB Results - Select Western Lake Erie Basin under Location Tab

Phosphorus Soil Sampling Program Brochure

Recommended Binational Phosphorus Targets


Governor Pence Lauds Environmental Progress on Lake Erie Basin

NOAA, partners predict severe harmful algal bloom
for Lake Erie

The Nature Conservancy Congratulates Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann for her Role at Great Lakes Summit

ISDA WLEB Contacts

Julie Harrold
Program Manager - Water Quality Initiatives

Jill Krause
Resource Specialist

Nick Alles
Resource Specialist

Jennifer Thum
District Support Specialist

Related Links

Indiana Conservation Partnership Accomplishments Reports

Indiana's Nutrient Reduction Strategy