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St. Joseph River Association, Inc.


Did You Know....


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 watersheds:

Elkhart River Restoration Association: www.elkhartriver.org

Friends of the St. Joseph River: www.fotsjr.org

Wastewater Management

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 or www.elkhartcountyhealth.org/enviroHS.php.

Learn how water quality is protected by visiting a local Wastewater Treatment Plant:

Elkhart: 574-293-2572

Goshen:  574-534-4102

Bristol:  574-848-7931


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 organisms.

Get Involved:  Visit Hoosier Riverwatch at http://www.in.gov/dnr/nrec/3046.htm to learn more, or contact nancy.brown@in.nacdnet.net to sigh-up for a local training workshop.


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 birding:

bullet City of Elkhart Parks and Recreation Department:  www.elkhartindiana.org
bullet City of Goshen Park and Recreation Department:  www.ci.goshen.in.us
bullet Elkhart County Parks and Recreation:  www.elkhartcountyparks.org
bullet IDNR Recreation Information:  www.in.gov/dnr/3129.htm

River Clean-Ups

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.

Invasive Species

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:

bullet Landscape using native, non-invasive plants.  Visit www.inpaws.org for more information.
bullet 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 (574-535-6458).

Lawn Care

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 recommended amounts.

What can you do:

bullet Test your soil to find our what nutrients are needed. Consider using organic fertilizers; they release nutrients more slowly.
bullet When you apply lawn chemicals, use only the amount recommended on the package  more is not better - the excess just runs off.
bullet Don't apply lawn chemicals before a rain storm.
bullet 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

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 drop-off day.


bullet 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.
bullet Instead of using a commercially purchased all purpose cleaner, make your own.  Mix 1/2 cup whit vinegar and 1 tablespoon baking soda.
bullet Do not rinse pain cans, brushes, detergent pails, or other cleaning containers on your driveways or the street.
bullet Firmly seal and store all used chemicals and dispose of excess materials at a recycling or hazardous waste facility.



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