Lake Erie Starts Here  

The Importance of Primary Headwater Streams and Ditches

All rivers start out as many much smaller streams or tributaries. The combined water quality of all the smaller streams determines the water quality of the big river. The network of small streams that blankets the landscape of every watershed is called the “headwaters.” Headwater streams that have a watershed area of less than one square mile are called “primary headwater streams.” A river composed of tiny streams can be compared to an organism made up of tiny capillaries, or blood vessels. Just as the health of the whole organism depends on the healthy functioning of the capillary system, the health of larger streams and rivers depends on the water quality in the small streams.

In Summit County, there are two major rivers and drainage basins, the Cuyahoga and the Tuscarawas. The Cuyahoga starts out in Hambden Township near Burton in Geauga County, passes through Portage, Summit, and Cuyahoga Counties, and flows northward into Lake Erie. Lake Erie drains into the St. Lawrence Seaway and ends up in the Atlantic Ocean. 

The Tuscarawas has its beginnings near Hartville in Stark County, flows through Summit County, where it passes through the Portage Lakes area, Barberton, and Clinton, to the Ohio River and eventually, the Mississippi which empties into the Gulf of Mexico. Contaminants on the lawns and streets of Summit County that get washed into the ditches, small streams, and storm sewers, eventually make their way to the North Atlantic Ocean, and the Gulf of Mexico. The residents of Summit County could prevent this from happening by using healthy landscape practices for backyard ditches and streams.

Primary headwater streams with vegetated buffers assist in reducing sediment delivery to larger streams. Instead of mowing to the edge of your stream or ditch, plant riparian buffer areas with native trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants, which can keep a large amount of sediment from entering the stream, because of the root systems which hold the sediment in place and trap it. These healthy riparian areas help to reduce dredging costs, frequency of floods, water treatment costs, and siltation, or silt deposition in the larger streams. Riparian buffers also reduce the amount of nutrients entering the larger streams. The roots of the native vegetation trap and filter the nutrients and pollutants before they enter the stream. When the nutrients and pollutants are reduced, water quality, habitat, and recreational opportunities are all increased.

Native vegetation planted on the stream banks and in the flood plain provides valuable food, habitat, migration corridors, and nesting sites for many species of wildlife. Biological diversity also creates increased opportunities for hunting and fishing. These healthy landscaping practices not only improve water quality, but also increase property values by improving aesthetics and curb appeal.

Nearly every person living in Northeast Ohio and Summit County has a primary headwater stream within a short distance of their home. Due to their small size, and nearness to human activities, these streams are often impaired. Because headwater streams are a key determinant in the overall condition of any river system, it is very important that all of us take on the responsibility and stewardship for keeping our headwater streams healthy and pollution-free. For more information on what you can do to protect Summit County headwater streams, contact the Summit Soil and Water Conservation District, at 330-926-2452, or go to

Interesting Reads:

Check out this article from the National Weather Service on floods!


Illicit Detection and Elimination:

If you see someone dumping anything into a storm drain please report it to the Engineering Dept for follow-up at 330-963-6247.  

What will we do: 
1)  Investigate 
2)  Clean-up if necessary  as part of our illicit detection and elimination program
3)  Target an educational flyer in your neighborhood.  Not all sewers are treated equal – the City maintains                   both a sanitary sewer system and a storm sewer system.
Dump No Waste - Drains to River

Examples of Illicit Discharges:

Are your neighbors picking up after “SNOOPY” and putting into the storm drain?  
What they should be doing is putting into the trash or flushing it down the toilet.

Wash water in the bucket after washing the car, is it being dumped on the driveway and flowing into the street?
What should be happening is it should be dumped down the drain inside the garage/or wash basin sink. These drains are connected to the sanitary sewer and the water can be treated at the Wastewater Treatment Plant before it is released into Tinkers Creek.

Stormwater Management

Stormwater Management

Stormwater runoff is generated when precipitation from rain and melted snow flows over land or impervious surfaces and does not percolate into the ground. As the runoff flows over the land or impervious surfaces (paved streets, parking lots, and building rooftops), it accumulates debris, chemicals, sediment, or other pollutants that could adversely affect water quality if the runoff is discharged untreated. The primary method to control stormwater discharges is the use of best management practices (BMPs). In addition, most stormwater discharges are considered point sources and require coverage under a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Stormwater Program

The NPDES Stormwater Program regulates stormwater discharges from 3 potential sources: municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s), construction activities, and industrial activities. Most stormwater discharges are considered point sources, and operators of these sources may be required to receive an NPDES permit before they can discharge. This permitting mechanism is designed to prevent stormwater runoff from washing harmful pollutants into local surface waters such as streams, rivers, lakes, or coastal waters.

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Phase 2 

 The federal government finalized regulations for stormwater management in smaller communities, and it is known as the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Phase 2 Rule. This rule is designed to comply with the requirements of the Clean Water Act and to further protect our nation's streams and rivers from polluted stormwater runoff. The NPDES Phase 2 program addresses 6 major areas:

Public Education and Public Outreach

Public Participation and Involvement

Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination

Construction Site Runoff control

Post Construction Site Runoff control

Pollution Prevention / Good Housekeeping for Municipal Operations

The City of Twinsburg participates in the Summit County Stormwater Management Program and is permitted to discharge stormwater under NPDES Permit OH6000003 effective September 11, 2014 through September 10, 2019. The City and County are currently updating their SWMP plan to meet the new EPA permit issued for program years 2014 through 2019. A set of Best Management Practices (BMPs) or goals to address the requirements of the permit have been established, and the city is working to implement these BMPs.

Flood Plain Administration

Flood Plain Administration

The City Engineer, Amy Mohr, P.E., is the Flood Plain Administrator for the City of Twinsburg. Duties of the Flood Plain Administrator include review of development permits to determine if requirements of Chapter 1345.07 of the Codified Ordinances of Twinsburg (COT) have been satisfied, review of permits to assure intergovernmental review agencies have issued all required permits, and to determine if proposed development is located within a designated flood way.

Flood Insurance Study

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, coordinates the federal government's role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terrorism.

The Flood Insurance Study (FIS) and its accompanying Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) are prepared by FEMA to provide base flood information, delineate areas subject to significant flood hazards within the Summit County, and to offer the information for public officials to use when permitting development in the floodplain.

The FIS and FIRM are used not only by floodplain permit officials, but also by builders and developers, realtors, lenders, insurance agents, and the general public to determine flood risk, develop hazard mitigation measures, and to encourage wise and responsible risk management decision-making.

The maps were recently updated and have an effective date of April 19, 2016.

Flooding Problem Diagnosis

There are 3 areas of focus when diagnosing a residential flooding problem:

House - Keep gutters clean and in good repair. Foundation drains over time can become plugged with silt holding water around the foundation. Exterior waterproofing around the foundation and walls to include areas adjacent to landscape beds is important. Finally, grading around the home should be reviewed to make sure the area slopes away from the home.

House Connection - Both foundation drains and downspouts connect into a storm sewer lateral that either connects to a storm main or daylights to a ditch or drainage way. The house connection over time can become plugged with debris or tree roots can infiltrate causing blockages. The current building code requires PVC pipe with glued joints be used. Historically, clay tile was used and this material is more apt to root intrusion. The City of Twinsburg Wastewater Department can help troubleshoot sewer lateral condition provided the clean out can be located.

Storm Sewer / Sanitary Sewer - The city maintains the sewer infrastructure. Sewer maintenance cleans sanitary sewers throughout the city. We also have capabilities to videotape the sewers. An annual manhole restoration contract is awarded to keep the manholes in good repair. Additionally, improvement projects to replace / repair / line sewers throughout the city are prioritized.