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Nature Awareness, Requirement 4

Explain where your household water comes from; what waterway is nearest to your home, and where its source is; where it drains; if there are any large bodies of water (lakes, ocean) near your home; what you know about the quality of water in your region; and what the major concerns in your area regarding your water supply are. (minimum 300 words)

The majority of water (85%) in my area comes from the Griggs reservoir on the Scioto River, the O'Shaughnessy reservoir north of that one, and the Hoover Reservoir. The remaining 15% comes from wells south of Columbus. The water that feeds the Hoover Reservoir flows from the Big Walnut Creek, and terminates in the Scioto. The water in the Scioto reservoirs comes from Hardin County, near Kenton, OH, and terminates in the Ohio River, which flows to the Mississippi and into the Gulf of Mexico.

The nearest waterway to me is one that I have spent eight years near now: the Oletangy. It runs from Crawford County at its furthest north and terminates in the Scioto, which drains as noted above. Along the Olentangy River is another reservoir, the Delaware Reservoir, which supplies water to the city of Delaware.

A 1999 river study by the EPA of the main river indicated that the Olentangy has "generally good water quality." The primary violation was a high bacteria count. The cause cited was storm runoff and faulty sanitary sewer lines concentrated in the urban areas of Columbus and Delaware. The dissolved oxygen levels were in the good to excellent range through the length of the river. There was a high ammonia content at the Delaware dam (ammonia is highly toxic to aquatic life), but it was much lower throughout the rest of the river. In general, the river was found to be reasonably well-maintained, with room for improvement.

The requisite improvement should come from the tributary streams that feed the Olentangy, which were found only to be in "fair" or "poor" condition. In particular, fecal coliform and E. coli bacteria were found in highly elevated levels, in particular near the mouth of Turkey Run near the OSU golf course.

Concerns for the water supply primarily come from human interactions. A number of toxic spills have occurred in the Olentangy River. Logging has drastically changed the topography and ecology of the watershed, and the settlement of the area also had a huge effect on the area. It has been in use for as long as people have been in the area (including pre-European contact), but European contact seems to have been the primary driver of change. In particular, deforestation from 1800-1850 increased erosion, siltation, and water temperature in the watershed; the increase in urban areas from 1850-1890 increased human activity in the area, lead to nutrient enrichment, a decline in dissolved oxygen, and increased bacteria from slaughterhouse and brewery wastes; and from 1890-now, industrialization has greatly increased pollution and hydromodification has changed the water quality and the ecosystem by eliminating and creating new habitats, as well as changing the course of the Olentangy through the Ohio State campus area.

Increased imperviousness (or hard surfaces, particularly associated with urbanization, that do not allow water to soak into the ground below) is a major problem, as the runoff carries more pollutants and natural streams are prevented from forming. As the stretch of land between Delaware and Columbus urbanizes, the entire area will increase in imperviousness, which will result in a drastic lowering of water quality.

[All info from the Columbus, OH, Department of Public Utilities: Division of Water and from FLOW: Friends of the Lower Olentangy Watershed.]


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