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
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.
Buck Creek-Busseron Creek
The Buck Creek-Busseron Creek watershed is in Sullivan County in southwest Indiana. The watershed contains 2 miles of Busseron Creek, along with 37 stream miles of two major tributaries of Busseron Creek: Robbins Branch (10.3 stream miles) and Buck Creek (27 stream miles). The watershed is mixed land use, with 54 percent in cultivated crops, 21 percent in forest, and 7 percent in pasture/hay with some minimal mining activity. Though the watershed is mostly rural, it also contains most of the city of Sullivan, whose wastewater treatment plant has several combined sewer overflow outlets that empty into Buck Creek. . The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) added Busseron Creek-Robbins Creek to the Indiana’s 2002 CWA section 303(d) list of impaired waters for nutrients, and on Indiana’s 2010 CWA section 303(d) list for impaired biotic communities. Since being listed as impaired in 2002, Busseron Creek-Robbins Creek has been re-segmented multiple times for assessment purposes. IDEM used CWA section 319 grant funding to support the creation of a watershed management plan (WMP) in 2010. A variety of state and federal programs were used to install Best Management Practices (BMPs) to improve water quality. IDEM reassessed the water quality in the Buck Creek-Busseron Creek watershed in 2016. Results of that sampling indicate that nutrients are no longer a water quality threat and that the biologic community has recovered. Due to these results all three segments are being removed from the impaired waters list for nutrients, and the two Buck Creek segments are also being removed for impaired biotic communities.
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.
Flowers Creek is a 12.72-mile-long tributary of the Eel River in eastern Miami County in north-central Indiana. The Flowers Creek watershed is rural and highly agricultural (92 percent row crops and grazing lands). Monitoring conducted by IDEM in 2003 on Flowers Creek showed elevated levels of total phosphorus and ammonia in conjunction with low dissolved oxygen and impaired biotic communities. On the basis of these data, Flowers Creek was listed as impaired for nutrients, dissolved oxygen and biological impairments in 2006. Using Clean Water Section 319 funds, Manchester University finalized a watershed management plan for the larger Middle Eel River watershed in early 2011. Additional federal, state, and local funding was used to install a variety of best management practices (BMPs) throughout the watershed. Post-project sampling showed that the biological communities had recovered and the streams were no longer impaired for nutrients or low dissolved oxygen. On the basis of these new data, Indiana is proposing to remove Flowers Creek from the state’s 2018 303(d) List.
Jenkins Ditch is a headwater stream of the South Fork Wildcat watershed in Clinton County, central Indiana. Activities such as hydrological modification and crop cultivation dominate the watershed. In 2004, IDEM collected chemical, physical, and biological data from Jenkins Ditch which indicated that the stream did not support aquatic life designated use. IDEM added the stream to its 303(d) List of Impaired Waters for Impaired Biotic Communities in 2006. From 1999-2012, IDEM’s Nonpoint Source program funded various activities in the watershed to promote restoration of Jenkins Ditch and other streams within the Wildcat Creek watershed. Watershed partners conducted education and outreach through stakeholder meetings, public workshops, field days, newsletters, and community cleanups. Landowners utilized various funding sources to implement best management practices such as conservation crop rotation, residue and tillage management, pest and nutrient management plans, waste management practices, filter and buffer strips, and habitat management practices on more than 20% of the land area of Jenkins Ditch-South Fork Wildcat Creek watershed. IDEM revisited the stream in 2011 to collect follow-up information on the biological community. Data indicated that the stream now fully supports the biological community. As a result, IDEM removed Jenkins Ditch from its 303(d) List of Impaired Waters in 2012
Metcalf Ditch is part of Buck Creek watershed, a predominately agricultural watershed located in DeKalb County in north-east Indiana. IDEM collected chemical, physical, and biological parameters in Metcalf Ditch in 2000 order to identify impairments and prepare a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) if needed. Data indicated that Metcalf Ditch was impaired for aquatic life use by having an Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) score of <36 resulting in the addition of Metcalf Ditch to Indiana’s 2002 303(d) List of Impaired Waters for Impaired Biotic Communities. Between 1990 and 2011, IDEM funded fifteen nonpoint source projects in the greater St. Joseph watershed. These project funds were used to develop a comprehensive watershed management plan, identify critical areas and priority actions to improve water quality, and implement BMPs to address failing septic systems, install tree plantings and encourage agricultural BMPs. When IDEM monitored the fish community in 2011, Metcalf Ditch received an IBI score of 36, indicating that it is fully supporting for aquatic life use. As a result, IDEM removed the segment from the state’s CWA section 303(d) list in 2012.
Pendleton Branch of Indian Creek
Indian Creek is a 22-mile-long Ohio River tributary in western Switzerland County, Indiana. The Indian Creek watershed is made up of two 12-digit hydrologic unit code (HUC) watersheds; Pendleton Branch is located midway between upper Indian Creek and the mouth of the creek in HUC 050902030902. The river and its tributaries flow southward through hilly terrain before coalescing with the Ohio River just west of Vevay, Indiana. The watershed is highly forested, with 61.5 percent in forested land use, 22 percent in pasture/hay land use and 7.6 percent in cultivated crops. Livestock in the watershed include goats, chicken, cattle, horses and donkeys. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) listed the Pendleton Branch of Indian Creek on its 2008 Clean Water Act (CWA) section 303(d) list of impaired waters due to high levels of Escherichia coli. The Indian Creek WMP was completed in May 2008. The Switzerland County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), HHH RC&D, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) helped implement numerous BMPs and other management activities between 2005 and 2015. In addition to the BMPs installed, HHH RC&D helped landowners install a pumping plant for water control, a water well, and a water tank; the USDA NRCS helped implement five access control practices, two stream crossings, a developed spring, forage/biomass planting (434 acres [ac]), upland wildlife habitat management (51 ac), early successional habitat development/management (37 ac), wetland enhancement (0.5 ac), and forest stand improvement (32 ac); and the USDA FSA supported planting of permanent native grasses (19.8 ac), grassed waterways (1.5 ac), and hardwood trees (24.3 ac). IDEM resampled the reach for E. coli in 2011 and found geometric means of 15 MPN/100 mL and 47 MPN/100 mL, well below the water quality standard of geometric mean ≤ 125 MPN/100 mL to be considered supporting. As a result, IDEM removed Pendleton Branch of Indian Creek from the impaired waters list in 2014 for E. coli.
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.
South Fork Wildcat Creek
Agricultural activities related to crop cultivation and livestock rearing contributed nonpoint source pollution to an unnamed tributary to the South Fork Wildcat Creek (SFWC), which caused the waterbody to fail to support its aquatic life use. As a result, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) added this waterbody to its 2002 Clean Water Act (CWA) section 303(d) impaired waters list for biotic communities. Project partners developed a watershed management plan and implemented best management practices (BMPs) to improve water quality in the stream. The waterbody now supports its aquatic life use. IDEM will propose to remove this waterbody from its list of impaired waters in 2020.