Gov. Mike DeWine’s H2Ohio program has multiple methods to protect Ohio’s waterways. The program was announced in November. Here are several related questions about H2Ohio, and their answers.
What is H2Ohio? The governor’s H2Ohio plan is an investment in targeted solutions to ensure safe and clean water for all Ohioans by reducing phosphorus runoff and preventing algal blooms. The $172 million plan will implement agricultural best practices and the creation of wetlands, improve wastewater infrastructure, replace failing home septic systems, and prevent lead contamination in high-risk day care centers and schools. The H2Ohio fund will provide funding support for efforts to minimize the introduction of nutrients and other runoff that can damage waterways. It will also provide funding for more aggressive action to address failing septic systems and other water treatment needs across Ohio.
What is the plan for agriculture? The H2Ohio plan will support efforts and build capacity to promote soil testing and fertilizer application best management practices for farmers, which are designed to reduce nutrient runoff into streams, rivers and lakes. This includes:
• additional staffing at soil and water conservation districts
• support for nutrient management planning
• support for nine-element planning at the watershed level
• support and promotion of a certification program for the use of the 4R’s of nutrient stewardship (the right source, the right rate, the right time and the right place) for retailers
The fund will also promote land conservation and preservation practices to create more stream buffers with cover crops through the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), and will develop permanent buffer zones to reduce nutrient loading into Ohio waterways.
What are the most effective ways to reduce agricultural phosphorus runoff? As a result of intensive scientific and economic studies, H2Ohio identified the 10 most effective and cost-efficient practices that have been proven to reduce agricultural phosphorus runoff:
1. soil testing
2. variable-rate fertilization
3. subsurface placement
4. manure incorporation
5. conservation crop rotation
6. cover crops
7. drainage water management
8. two-stage ditch construction
9. edge-of-field buffers
Who should CCAs and other interested individuals contact for more information? Information about H2Ohio can be found at h2.ohio.gov. The H2Ohio plan is evolving with time, and local soil and water conservation districts are going to be the best contact for finding out information about H2Ohio. The plan timetable is to have several priority practices ready for implementation by spring 2020.
Studer is a nutrient management specialist and certified crop adviser at the Ohio Department of Agriculture, Division of Soil & Water Conservation. He holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental policy and analysis from Bowling Green State University, and a master’s degree in crop science from the University of Illinois.