ORF's primary goal is to protect and restore the water quality and ecology of the Ohio River and its tributaries. Involved on several fronts, we provide critical analysis of policies, procedures, and projects to influence better land and water management of the Ohio River and its watershed.  As a part of our activities, we promote public involvement and scientific review of watershed management practices and initiatives.

If you would like assistance from or collaborate with ORF on any issue you may have that will affect the condition of the Ohio River, and any waters within the watershed, please don't hesitate to contact us.

Stormwater and Rain Gardens

Communities throughout the Ohio River watershed are searching for ways to confront the growing problems created by stormwater.  Flooding and deraded water quality are the chief threats posed by this source of non-point pollution.  A few communities in Kansas City, Minnesota, and Michigan are attacking this problem head-on with an innovative approach: rain gardens.  For the Ohio River watershed, ORF is now finding partners to bring this important development tool to local communities in the fight to control stormwater and improve water quality.  More...

(March 2010) Stormwater retention ponds now found to retain toxins posing threats to waterways and public health.  More

Ecosystem Restoration

Barrier Removal and Habitat Restoration

Ohio River Foundation is coordinating efforts to remove low-head (small) dams and restore habitat in the Ohio River watershed. This program focus supports community financial assistance for such projects. ORF provides both the fundraising assistance and project management services that communities and landowners need.

Ohio River Basin Fish Habitat Partnership

Ohio River Foundation stands at the forefront of efforts to develop a comprehensive Ohio River ecosystem restoration program.  ORF is working with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Army Corps of Engineers, state agencies, and experts from around the watershed to improve upon the Corps of Engineers' Ecosystem Restoration program for the Ohio River. 

Youth Conservation Teams

Led by adult crew leaders, high school students perform habitat restoration and protection projects in Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky. This stewardship program, existing in other parts of the country, is the first of its kind in the 8-state Ohio River watershed. MORE...

Water Quality

The Ohio River is now the worst toxic water dump in the U.S.  In response ORF has launched the Protect Our Water campaign.

Improvements in water quality were achieved in the Ohio River watershed due primarily to passage and enforcement of the Clean Water Act (CWA) in 1972.  However, threats continue from stormwater runoff, agricultural runoff, mercury deposition from coal-fired plants, and millions of gallons of untreated sewage that flow into the river each year from sewer overflows.  Furthermore, Over the last two years, evidence indicates that government pollution prevention and enforcement programs are not working well. Reports by USEPA, Environment America Research & Policy Center, and The New York Times indicate that:

  1. In 2007, polluters dumped 31 million pounds of toxic chemicals into the Ohio River making it the most toxic river in the country
  2. Violations of the Clean Water Act are going unprosecuted
  3. 49% of lakes and reservoirs are contaminated above EPA safe levels

Amazingly, in some cases this is permitted pollution; however, the number of permit violations appears to be growing. Unfortunately, the political will to enforce water pollution laws has waned and is now further stressed by economic recession and shrinking government budgets. So, under the auspices of the Protect Our Water campaign ORF will now undertake an independent investigation to identify polluters threatening our waterways and drinking water supplies, and force compliance with the law. DONATE NOW. SUPPORT THIS CRUCIAL PUBLIC HEALTH CAMPAIGN

We are working hard by calling for stronger enforcement of the CWA, and developing and promoting strategies that can reduce pollution of the Ohio River.  More...


(2001) Biologists from several universities found resistent bacteria in the Ohio River during a weeks long investigation of water quality along the course of the entire river.  More

Watershed Plan

In November 2002, Ohio River Foundation released A Framework for Ecosystem Restoration of the Ohio River and its Watershed, which details ways to improve restoration programs proposed for the Ohio River. Other groups, federal and state agencies, and experts from around the watershed are now working to implement some of the report's recommendations.  If you would like a copy of this document, download the .pdf file (339Kb).

Navigation, Development Permits, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is in charge of maintaining and controlling navigation on the Ohio River and its navigable tributaries.  As a part of this mission the Corps is also entrusted to protecting the Ohio River environment.  Furthermore, the Corps is also responsible for issuing "dredge and fill" permits (section 404 of the Clean Water Act) to prospective property developers.  It is this focus that Ohio River Foundation is involved with the Corps, as we try to redirect the Corps to strike a balance between navigation and environmental protection.  More

Community and Organizational Assistance

ORF assists organizations and communities along the river and around the watershed, in their respective efforts to protect water quality through our barrier removal and habitat restoration program activities.  We also provide 404 permit comment guidance and information to parties on how to protect riverfronts, rivers, and sub-watersheds.  Habitat protection and restoration project assistance and services can also be provided via our Youth Conservation Teams program.


WaterSmart is a program that promotes clean water, healthy rivers, and how simple things we can do around the home can help improve America's rivers. Pollution isn't just from industry, we all pollute, so we all have a responsibility to pollute as little as possible.  In addition to providing information about water conservation, ORF has joined USEPA's WaterSense program as the watershed's only non-governmental WaterSense partner promoting use of water efficient products.  As a part of its efforts ORF offers consumers purchase of water efficient showerheads through this website


RiverSmart is a nationwide education program that promotes clean water, healthy rivers, and how simple things we can do around the home can help improve America's rivers. Pollution isn't just from industry, we all pollute, so we all have a responsibility to pollute as little as possible. If you'd like to know some things you can do to protect our rivers and reduce pollution around the home, download "Ten RiverSmart Tips" (you'll need acrobat reader, available from Adobe) or call 513-460-3365 to have a copy mailed to you. A copy of the news release announcing ORF's (formerly Ohio River Advocacy) RiverSmart Campaign is available here.