There are four major watersheds in Onondaga County: Seneca, Oneida, Chenango, and Oswego. There are also eight subwatersheds, including the Oswego River Basin, Lower Seneca River Basin, Oneida River Basin, Onondaga Lake Basin, Owasco Lake Basin, Skaneateles Creek Basin, Chittenango Creek Basin, and Tioughnioga River Basin.
Streams in Central New York (Onondaga County) range in nature from fairly pristine to severely disturbed systems. Many of theses streams flow through urban or agricultural watersheds and must deal with significant inputs of nonpoint pollution. Nonpoint sources include stream bank erosion, stormwater runoff, runoff from roads and parking lots (including salts), residential use of fertilizers and pesticides, runoff from construction sites, and agricultural runoff. Streams are further impacted by point source pollution via discharges from wastewater treatment plants, combined sewer overflows (CSOs), and various industrial, commercial, and municipal entities. Highest priority watershed concerns are those that affect Skaneateles and Otisco Lakes. These two lakes serve as drinking water sources for over half of Onondaga County’s residents (1999 Water Quality Strategy Report). The Priority Waterbodies List for Onondaga County can be found in the county Water Quality Strategy Report. Copies of this document can be obtained through the Onondaga County Council on Environmental Health or the Onondaga County Soil and Water Conservation District.
In order to address the problems associated with nonpoint source pollution, education is necessary. Nonpoint source pollution is a serious problem in Central New York. Data need to be collected to assess and evaluate the progress of best management practices (BMPs) and other control/prevention programs that have been implemented. Water quality data can provide insight into the effectiveness and/or success of such practices. Volunteer stream monitoring programs, such as Project Watershed CNY/SOS, can collect and analyze valuable data for stream sites that are not currently monitored by local or state water quality management agencies. This information can help to fill in the gaps and supplement existing databases. Volunteer stream monitoring efforts can help identify potential water quality problems and bring them to the attention of the appropriate authorities.