The Mill Creek Watershed Partnership provides numerous services for residents living within the watershed. We help homeowners and businesses manage stormwater, and provide resources to alleviate flooding and erosion problems on their properties. On this page, you will find a variety of links and resources to find answers, get advice, or get involved in watershed protection and storm water management.

A watershed is the area of land that drains into a body of water. The largest watershed in Northeast Ohio is Lake Erie.  Protecting the Lake Erie watershed and the more than two dozen smaller watersheds that drain into the lake is important to the environment, public health, and the economic well-being of Greater Cleveland. When stormwater runoff is not managed properly, the result is flooded streets and properties, land erosion, and overrun sewers. All of these occurrences deposit pollutants into area streams and rivers, and the lake.  Learn more about watersheds on the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District website.

Stormwater is surface water in large quantities resulting from heavy falls of rain or snow.  Stormwater runoff is water from rain or melting snow that “runs off” across the land instead of seeping into the ground. This runoff usually flows into the nearest stream, creek, river, lake or ocean. The runoff is not treated in any way.

This differs from the water we use in our home, which  goes directly to the sanitary sewer system to a treatment plant.  At the treatment plant, it is cleaned and released into our streams. If you live in a more rural area, this water is treated and disbursed by your septic system.

It's important to pay attention to stormwater because the runoff can cause flooding and increased streambank erosion as the water flows more quickly and in larger volumes. Because stormwater isn't treated, it carries dirt and pollution like litter and debris into our streams and lakes. Stormwater runoff can also collect fertilizers and chemicals from your grass clippings, pet waste and pesticides.  Because this pollution ends up in our streams, Lake Erie and our water supply, it's important to keep pollutants to a minimum.

What can you do to help?

During heavy rainstorms, an excess of stormwater enters our storm drains and ditches which can cause backups and flooding.  This requires additional infrastructure to clean up polluted stormwater.  Our communities continue grow and install impervious surfaces such as concrete, asphalt, metal or brick.  These surfaces contribute to stormwater runoff because the water does not have a natural space to be absorbed into the ground.

Although individual actions may seem minor, taking steps to reduce stormwater runoff can make a big difference if we work together.  Here are some steps we can take:

Increasing the amount of water that soaks into the ground, recharging aquifers and groundwater fed streams
Safeguarding communities from flooding and drainage problems
Protecting streams and lakes from pollutants carried by urban stormwater
Enhancing the beauty of yards and neighborhoods, and
Providing habitat for birds, butterflies, and many beneficial insects

The initial pulse of stormwater from a rain event contains the highest level of pollutants and gets sent directly into our streams and waterways without going to a treatment plant first. This pulse is often referred to as the “first flush”. If each individual property can slow down and remove pollutants from this first flush of stormwater, our streams, lakes, will be healthier and our local communities can save money by lowering infrastructure development and maintenance costs.

Property owners have a huge impact on the quality of our water. Small steps can make a big difference in the amount of pollution that flows into our streams and Lake Eire. Taking steps to reduce flooding and drainage, planting native species and eliminating the use of pesticides will go a long way in ensuring a quality water supply.

A healthy lawn is often the star of your landscaping. It takes time to care for a beautiful yard, but once you have a healthy and thriving lawn, it will out-compete most weeds, pests and diseases before they become a problem. Here are some steps for a healthy and environmentally-friendly law:

Understand fertilizer basics. Click here for the proper ways to fertilize.
Aerate your lawn annually to allow water and fertilizer to soak into the root zone.
Mow your lawn high – at three inches with a sharp blade. Never cut more than one third of the existing grass height at one time. Cutting too low leaves the lawn vulnerable to stress and disease.
Use a mulching mower and leave clippings on the lawn.
Test the soil as recommended above to understand if and when you need to fertilizer.
Never apply fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides when rain is in the forecast. Some of these contain nitrogen and phosphorous and rain water can cause it to run into our waterways where they spur oxygen-depleting algae blooms that kill fish and block sunlight from reaching underwater plant habitats.
Reduce the amount of actively mowed lawn by creating a meadow or rain garden in your yard.
Reduce water usage with a trickle and drip irrigation systems, which can reduce water use by as much as 50 percent.

Compost is a master gardener’s secret weapon. It can drastically improve the soil, which helps plants thrive. It is also a practical way to handle lawn clippings, leaves and other plant cuttings.

In order to create compost, you’ll need to create a mixture of 2 parts green to 1 part brown for the ideal carbon-nitrogen ratio needed to “cook” the pile. The “cooking” is the decomposition of the mixture into organic material for your soil.

Stir the pile frequently and keep it moist to quicken decomposition. 

We all love the look of a nicely landscaped yard, but some plants require more maintenance than they are worth. That’s why native planting can be a beautiful, low-cost alternative to traditional landscaping. Native plantings can be practical nearly anywhere in your yard, and can be designed specifically to best enhance and beautify your property.

U.S Forest Service facts and figures and new traffic safety studies detail many urban street tree benefits. Once seen as highly problematic for many reasons, street trees are proving to be a great value to people living, working, shopping, sharing, walking and motoring in and through urban places.

Continue reading about the many benefits of properly placed and spaced urban street trees in the Urban Street Trees: 22 Benefits and Specific Applications report by Dan Burden, Senior Urban Designer, Glatting Jackson and Walkable Communities, Inc.

And learn more about even more benefits in the Benefits of Trees and Urban Forests: A Research List of the Alliance for Community Trees.

Protecting our nation’s healthy watersheds makes economic sense.  Healthy intact watersheds provide many ecosystem services that are necessary for our social and economic well-being. These services include water filtration and storage, air filtration, carbon storage, nutrient cycling, soil formation, recreation, food and timber. Many of these services have not been monetized and therefore the economic contributions of healthy intact ecosystems are often under-valued when making land use decisions. Ecosystem services provided by healthy watersheds are difficult to replace and most often very expensive to engineer (see chart). An engineered ecosystem service replacement may only provide a fraction of the services provided by highly functioning natural systems. Preventing impairments in healthy watersheds protects valuable ecosystem services that provide economic benefits to society and prevent expensive replacement and restoration costs. Maintaining riparian connectivity and natural processes in the landscape provide a supporting network for ecological integrity, ensuring the sustainable and cost effective provision of clean water over time.

Learn more in The Economic Benefits of Protecting Healthy Watersheds Fact Sheet produced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Throughout Northeast Ohio, the use of Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) techniques has become a more common and visible means of managing stormwater runoff from developed land. The multiple benefits of GSI practices beyond water quality have been widely recognized in the region, and the Ohio Rainwater and Land Development Manual (ODNR, 2006) encourages the use of Low Impact Development and GSI techniques for post-construction run- off management.

The question for greater implementation of GSI techniques is why – from a specific financial, permitting, or operational standpoint – some measures are selected as post-construction control measures over GSI options, and what policy and financial tools might shift these choices.

A report was commissioned by the Northeast Ohio Stormwater Training Council and funded by Ohio EPA to assess the financial and operational decision-making around the choice of stormwater treatment practices for development and redevelopment in the region.

Learn more about the research and findings in the Green Infrastructure Incentives for Northeast Ohio Communities report. 

Emergencies and disasters can happen at any time and any place. Even a small amount of planning and preparation can make the difference between surviving and not surviving.

Although public safety agencies are trained and equipped to provide assistance in the wake of disasters or emergencies, they are likely to be overwhelmed in the critical first hours after an event. It might be hours or days before safety forces can reach your location and provide assistance.

That is why the Cuyahoga County Office of Emergency Management and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) urge all Americans to take the following critical steps before an emergency or disaster strikes: Be Informed, Make A Plan, Build A Kit, and Get Involved.

For their Emergency Preparedness Guide and more information visit the Cuyahoga County website.

Mill Creek Cuyahoga River Sub-Watershed NPS-IS Plan

This Nine-Element Nonpoint Source Implementation Strategic Plan (NPS-IS) was written to comply with Ohio’s Nonpoint Source Management Plan Update (FY2014 to FY2018). This NPS-IS Plan is an update to the Draft Mill Creek Watershed Action Plan (2007; updated 2014, 2015). The Draft Mill Creek Watershed Action Plan (WAP) was never endorsed by the Ohio EPA nor the U.S. EPA Region 5. Download the plan by clicking here.

NEORSD Mill Creek Assessment

NEORSD has conducted biological, habitat, and water chemistry assessments on Mill Creek each year since 2006. The purpose of these assessments has been to determine the health of the watershed in relation to the point and non-point sources of pollution listed previously.  Learn more about the results by clicking here.

Cuyahoga County Greenprint

The Cuyahoga County Planning Commission has released a new planning tool, the Cuyahoga County Greenprint, designed to assist in important community work, such as preparing planning documents, writing grant applications, creating visuals for public meetings, and in reviewing development or infrastructure projects. Locate stream buffer zones, steep slopes, and other natural features, identify areas in need of trees and places ideal for planting, or measure a linear distance for a future trail or acreage of land for a potential conservation project. Learn more about this planning tool by clicking here.

Project Clean Lake

Project Clean Lake is a program to enables the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District to meet Clean Water Act standards and address water quality issues caused by raw sewage that overflows into the environment during rain events.