The St. Joseph River Watershed is Auburn’s Watershed

 In Press

By Drew Wallace, Program Coordinator, Water Pollution Control

A watershed—the land area that drains to a stream, creek, river or lake—affects the water quality in the water body that it surrounds. For Auburn, that watershed is the St. Joseph River watershed. It includes three states, six counties, 9 sub-watersheds, 265,000 people and 694,400 acres, making it critically important for our region and our local community.

The St. Joseph River watershed is located in northeast Indiana, northwest Ohio and south-central Michigan. Indiana occupies 56% of the watershed, while Michigan and Ohio each occupy 22%.

The majority of the St. Joseph River Watershed is rural, with a population of approximately 65,000 (excluding Ft. Wayne). Auburn is the second largest city in the watershed. The population is increasing throughout the watershed, especially in southern DeKalb and Noble Counties and northern Allen County. Small 5-10 acre parcels are numerous in these areas. Plus, industry is claiming areas along interstate and major state highways in all three states.

Land Uses
The watershed is primarily agricultural, with approximately 64% in cropland and 15% in pasture or forage. Woodlands and wetlands are found on 10%, while the remaining 11% consist of urban, farmsteads, airports, golf courses and other land uses.

Cedar Creek to Lake Erie
Cedar Creek is the largest tributary of the St. Joseph River. The St Joseph River joins the St Mary’s River in Fort Wayne to form the Maumee River that then flows to the western basin of Lake Erie. The water along the way to Lake Erie collects chemicals such as herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers from lawns and farm fields. It also collects harmful bacteria from failing septic systems and various forms of pollution during a rain event known as storm water pollution that washes into our waterways.

What can YOU do?
In Auburn we have numerous tiles, ditches, residential retention pond overflows, wetlands and separate storm water sewer systems that flow directly to Cedar Creek and eventually to Lake Erie. This runoff does not get treated at the waste water treatment plant and goes directly to Cedar Creek. You can help through a variety of ways, including landscaping, recycling oil, minimizing sediment and more. You can find additional information on watersheds in our What is a Watershed? blog from 2019.

For information on Storm Water Pollution Prevention, contact Drew Wallace, Water Pollution Control Program Coordinator at 260.925.1714 or

*Information contained in this educational article was obtained from the USEPA storm water website and the St. Joseph River Watershed Initiative website.

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