Twenty percent of all the fresh water in the world comes from the Great Lakes, and the Maumee River is the largest Great Lakes watershed.
Five Indiana counties, two Michigan counties, and 17 Ohio counties drain into this watershed.
Starting in Fort Wayne, the Maumee flows northeast into the Maumee Bay and then into Lake Erie.
The Maumee River also supplies more than 50 percent of sediment, as well as 40 percent of phosphorus pollution into Lake Erie (Source: Lake Erie Water Keepers).
Phosphorus pollution creates a vast blanket of algae each summer, threatening fisheries, tourism and drinking water. Lake Erie’s algae bloom in 2012, at 1,920 square miles, was three times bigger than any previous one. Decomposing algae consume the oxygen in the lake’s deep center each summer, creating a dead zone where deepwater fish, essential to the lake’s food chain, cannot exist.
The primary cause of Maumee River impairment is from ammonia and nutrients, as well as E. coli (IDEM survey, 2004).
Non-point source pollution, such as agriculture, runoff and manure, is said to be the hardest to reverse because it is hard to regulate and pinpoint where it originates.
Other contributors of E. coli are from point sources, such as straight pipe discharges, home sewage treatment system disposal and combined sewer overflow outlets (IDEM, www.in.gov/idem/nps/2845.htm ).
Indiana has lost 85 percent of its wetlands in the past 200 years. Wetlands are nature’s kidneys, absorbing excess nutrients from farm fertilizers and septic systems runoff. They also filter sediments and trap pollutants. (DNR, www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/files/statusof.pdf).