The interest to prepare a watershed management plan (WMP) for the Upper Wabash River Basin watershed stems from the numerous known water quality problems and the fact that these watersheds are typical of the water quality problems facing many other rural watersheds throughout the State where agriculture is the primary activity. The combined drainage area for the project area is 161,080 acres and drains land in southern Adams County including discharges south of the City of Berne, northern and eastern Jay County, and southeastern Wells County. A small portion of the City of Berne (population 4,150) at its southern edge is included in the study area. Other smaller towns include Bryant (population 272), Geneva (population 1,368), and Vera Cruz (population 55). The total population of all of the towns and the City is approx. 5,800.
The land use in the city and surrounding towns is predominantly impervious (roads, parking lots, roof tops, etc.) which results in the discharge of untreated stormwater directly into various ditches that flow into the Wabash River Basin. The City of Berne’s sewage treatment plant has an outlet to the Wabash River near Covered Bridge Road. This is an outlet for waters that have been processed by the series of lagoons utilized for wastewater treatment. While the Town of Monroe is geographically located out of the watershed, the combined sanitary and storm sewer flows to the City of Berne. The Town of Geneva and the Town of Vera Cruz are also located close to the Wabash River and may discharge untreated stormwater directly into the river.
Approximately 92% of the Upper Wabash River Basin watershed remain in agriculture use including livestock and crop production. The National Water Quality Inventory (NWQI), reports that agriculture nonpoint source pollution is the leading source of water quality impairments to surveyed rivers and lakes. Nutrients, pesticides, and sediment can migrate from agricultural lands to surface waters via runoff, sub-surface tile systems, and erosion.
The Upper Wabash River Basin WMP presents the overall watershed analysis and inventory conducted by Christopher B. Burke Engineering, Ltd. (CBBEL), the project Steering Committee, and the public, and offers recommendations for water quality improvement, preservation, and protection. This WMP meets the requirements of the IDEM’s Watershed Management Plan Checklist.