A watershed is all the land that drains to a
particular body of water. Most of Elkhart County is part of
the St. Joseph River Watershed, which is part of the larger
Lake Michigan Watershed. Everybody lives in a watershed,
and the things we do on land affect these bodies of water,
even if that water is far away! That's why it's so
important to prevent pollution, no mater where we live.
Join efforts to protect and improve local
Elkhart River Restoration
Friends of the St. Joseph River:
Most people don't think about what happens to
wastewater. When the toilet flushes or the bathtub drains,
it is out of sight, out of mind. However , wastewater
carries detergents, E.coli bacteria, nutrients, and solid
that need to be treated and removed so they don't pollute
out waterways. Cities and towns have sewers that carry
wastewater to treatment plants. Many rural homes and
businesses have private septic systems.
In the past, wastewater was discharged
directly to river and streams. Older sewer systems called
"combined sewers" still allow sewage to overflow into
waterways during heavy rains, but local governments are
investing millions of dollars to upgrade facilities to
eliminate these events.
Private septic owners need to make sure they
keep their systems in working order by having them pumped
every 2-3 years. For more information about septic systems
contact the Elkhart County Health Department: 574-875-3301
Learn how water quality is protected by
visiting a local Wastewater Treatment Plant:
Who would have thought that the iridescent
dragonfly swooping lazily across the wetland meadow was once
a nymph crawling on the stream bottom, preying upon other
insects? Many of the flying insects we are familiar with
start their life cycle in the water. Those immature
insects, snails, clams, crayfish, and other
macro-invertebrates are indicators of water quality. We can
complete a water quality evaluation by identifying these
Get Involved: Visit Hoosier Riverwatch at
http://www.in.gov/dnr/nrec/3046.htm to learn more, or contact
email@example.com to sigh-up for a local
Recreation is an excellent way for anyone to
connect with and enjoy the watershed in which they live.
Recreation not only encourages a better understanding and
appreciation of the outdoors, it also opens the door to
improving your physical and mental health. It can alleviate
stress and increase your capacity to learn through rest,
relaxation and play.
Elkhart County offers many recreational
opportunities such as fishing, hunting, boating, hiking and
Every year, many volunteers in Elkhart County
work to keep our rivers clean through river clean-ups and
water quality monitoring. During river clean-ups, the
volunteers remove large amounts of solid waste and debris
out of the local waterways. To get involved, contact one of
the organizations listed below. It is important to prevent
solid waster entering waterways by reducing the amount of
trash we produce, recycling, and picking up litter. For more
information, call the Solid Waste Management District or
Elkhart county at 574-293-2269
For more information about local river
clean-ups, contact Elkhart Environmental Division at
574-203-5070 or the Elkhart River Alliance at
www.elkhartriveralliance.org. Adopt-A-River is a
statewide program that recognizes volunteer groups who adopt
at least a half-mile segment of the flowing waterway and
hold clean-ups twice a year. Please visit
http://www.in.gov/dnr/outdoor/4453.htm for more information.
An invasive species is a type of plant or
animal that shows a tendency to spread our of control. Many
invasives have been introduced from other geographic areas
and thrive when relocated in a competition-free and
predator-free environment outside their normal home range.
With different control methods, invasives can be slowed or
eliminated, allowing native plants and animals to reclaim
their homes. Purple Loosestrife, Eurasian Milfoil and Zebra
Mussels are examples of invasive species that crowd out
native plants and animals. Agricultural losses and control
costs die to invasive plants are estimated at $15 billion
per year in the U.S.
How to Help:
Landscape using native, non-invasive plants.
www.inpaws.org for more information.
Join an invasive species pull at a natural area or have one in
your own backyard. Contact
the Elkhart Environmental Center (574-293-5070),
Goshen Parks (574-537-0986), or Elkhart County Parks
When fertilizing lawns and using other common
chemicals, such as insecticides and herbicides, remember
that rain washes lawn chemicals into storm drains, which
ultimately carry runoff into our waterways. In addition to
degrading the quality of our streams and rivers, pesticides
can kill organisms in the stream and fertilizers can cause
algal blooms, which rob our waterways of oxygen that fish
need to survive. Use mulch and compost to reduce the need
for lawn chemicals, and always use the manufacturers
What can you do:
Test your soil to find our what nutrients are
needed. Consider using organic fertilizers; they
release nutrients more slowly.
When you apply lawn chemicals, use only the amount
recommended on the package more is not better - the
excess just runs off.
Don't apply lawn chemicals before a rain storm.
Let your grass clippings lay! Use a mulching lawn
mower to cut one-third of the blade length each week
and naturally fertilize your lawn in the process.
Green space is usually thought of as open
public areas such as parks and plazas - larger pieces of
land that are set aside from building development . But
green space can also be private lawns and foundation
plantings that break up city-scapes, soften hard surfaces,
and even provide habitat for birds, insects and other
wildlife. Waterways are critical to the life of any green
space, and green space is critical to the life of all living
organisms. In Elkhart County, we have many public green
spaces built around out waterways and there are even more
miles of waterway green space that is held privately. Both
people and wildlife depend on these open spaces - whether
groomed or untended - to provide basic needs such as food,
shelter, recreation, escape...and a good sunbath.
Household Hazardous Waste
Household wastes are considered hazardous if
they can burn easily, corrode or irritate the skin, have the
potential to generate heat or explode, or are poisonous to
humans and animals. These wastes include paints,
pesticides, automotive products, solvents, expired medicine,
and some cleaners. Do not dispose of Household Hazardous
Waste in any of the following ways: with your regular
trash, flushing it down the toilet, or dumping it down the
storm drain. Always take it to a Household Hazardous Waste
WHAT CAN YOU DO:
The Solid Waste Management District of Elkhart
County sponsors Household Hazardous Waste drop-off
days. Contact the District at 574-293-2269 for
times and locations.
Instead of using a commercially purchased all
purpose cleaner, make your own. Mix 1/2 cup whit
vinegar and 1 tablespoon baking soda.
Do not rinse pain cans, brushes, detergent pails,
or other cleaning containers on your driveways or
Firmly seal and store all used chemicals and
dispose of excess materials at a recycling or
hazardous waste facility.