Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet

Ohio State University Fact Sheet

Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering

590 Woody Hayes Dr., Columbus, OH 43210

Water Resources of Jackson County


David H. Samples
N'Deye-Marie N'Jie
Larry C. Brown

Water is a resource often taken for granted. In recent years, water availability and quality have become important public concerns in Jackson County. The county's population of 31,927 (1995 Ohio Department of Development estimate) is predominantly rural with small population centers, and 12 percent of the residents rely on ground water for their water supply. This fact sheet provides a brief overview of Jackson County's water resources, and is intended to help increase public awareness and understanding about this vital resource. By understanding where water is obtained and how it is used in the county, residents can gain a better appreciation for their water supply. Water resources terminology used in this publication is included in Surface and Ground Water Terminology, Fact Sheet AEX-460, which provides a listing of generally accepted water resource definitions. Ohio State University Extension publications are available through all Ohio county Extension offices.

Figure 1. Average monthly precipitation (in inches) in Jackson County, Ohio (1961-1990); data collected at Jackson, Ohio.


An average of approximately 40.4 inches of precipitation falls on Jackson County annually. Figure 1 illustrates the average monthly precipitation for the county for the period 1961 to 1990. Based on this thirty-year record, the average monthly precipitation is 3.4 inches per month, with January (2.5 inches) typically being the driest month, and July (4.3 inches) the wettest. However, there can be extreme variations in some years and in certain months within a year. Such seasonal and yearly extremes may have serious consequences and are not always apparent from the long-term precipitation information.

Surface-Water Resources

Jackson County contains four major streams, all of which are a part of the Ohio River basin. Salt Lick Creek is the county's largest. It drains much of the central, west central and northwest areas of the county by way of its many tributaries including Pigeon Creek, Big Run, Buckeye Creek, and Four Mile Creek. Salt Lick Creek flows to the northwest and joins Salt Creek just north of Richmond Dale, which then joins the Scioto River in southeast Ross County. The northeastern part of Jackson County is drained by Little Raccoon Creek by way of fourteen tributaries. The general direction of the flow is to the southeast where the Little Raccoon joins Raccoon Creek in Gallia County. The southeastern quarter of the county is drained by Symmes Creek, which is fed by four main tributaries: Cherry Fork, Sugar Run, Black Fork, and Dicks Creek. Symmes Creek flows south through Lawrence County where it joins the Ohio River. The Little Scioto River drains the southwestern portion of the county via Brushy Creek, Sugarcamp Creek, Bucklick Creek, and Holland Fork. The Little Scioto flows to the southwest through Scioto County where it joins the Ohio River. A generalized surface-water map of Jackson County is given in Figure 2.

Surface water quality and quantity are affected by the soil type, geology, the topography of adjacent land, and the way people use the land. Changes in land use, such as residential development and agricultural production, may increase the amount of sediment and other pollutants entering a body of water. Residential and urban areas contain many impervious surfaces, such as streets and parking lots, that increase the amount of runoff. The soils and terrain also influence the amount of runoff because of infiltration, percolation, and water holding characteristics. With some soils, rainfall is more likely to run off, while other soils allow water to infiltrate more readily.

The county contains approximately 268,000 land acres, of which 31 percent is farmland and 53 percent is woodland. Fifty-four soil types have been identified in the county and can be grouped into six soil associations. These vary in drainage quality from very poorly drained to well drained. A large portion (79 percent) of the soils are characterized as being moderately well to well drained and fall within the Wharton-Rarden (46 percent), Rigley-Rarden-Clymer (21 percent), Brownsville-Wharton (6 percent), and Rigley-Clymer-Brownsville (6 percent) associations.

The county water acreage consists of about 750 acres of lakes. The largest are Lake Jackson (243 acres), which is state owned and Hammertown Lake (186 acres), which is owned by the City of Jackson and is the major source of public water supply in the county. Most of the lakes and ponds are privately owned for recreational and livestock watering purposes. The county contains approximately 431 linear miles of major streams and rivers [estimated from river basin maps, Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Water].

Ground-Water Resources

Jackson County's highest yielding ground-water source is a sandstone aquifer named the Big Hand, which underlies 11 percent of the county in the northcentral area. This aquifer has massive to thin bedded units of fine-grained to conglomeratic sandstone, mostly quartz cemented by calcite, silica, iron, and clay. Wells in this region commonly yield from 5 to 25 gallons per minute (gpm) at depths from 25 to 300 feet.

A locally confined aquifer of silt, sand, and fine gravel beneath 15 to 25 feet of clay is the second highest yielding aquifer. Properly developed wells in coarse material can yield as much as 25 gpm at depths of 25 to 200 feet. This aquifer is a part of the ancient buried Teays River system in the west central and central areas (1 percent) of the county.

A third aquifer, also associated with the buried Teays River System, is found in alluvium consisting predominantly of clays and sand. Limited yields of generally less than 3 gpm are available with similar yields available from the underlying bedrock. This aquifer can be found in 5 percent of the county in a narrow strip which runs through Scioto, Liberty, Lick, Franklin, Bloomfield, and Milton Townships.

The primary ground-water source, which is found in 83 percent of the county, is also the least productive. This sedimentary bedrock aquifer consists of layers of sandstone, shale, fireclay, coal, and limestone. Properly developed wells yield an average of about 2 gpm at depths of 25 to 200 feet. An overview of the ground-water resources in the county is given in Jackson County Ground-Water Resources, AEX-490.40.

Figure 2. Surface-water resources in Jackson County, Ohio (adapted from ODNR Division of Water river basin maps; illustration prepared by K. A. Weber).

The yield of a well will vary considerably depending on the age and depth of the well, well construction, the diameter of the casing, pump capacity and age, and more importantly, properties of the geologic formation. Specific information on ground-water availability and wells can be obtained by contacting the ODNR Division of Water.

Where Does the Water Go?

Based on long-term statewide weather records, Ohio receives an average of 38 inches of precipitation per year. These 38 inches move through a complex path called the hydrologic cycle. Of these 38 inches, about 10 inches (26 percent) become runoff, which moves immediately to surface-water bodies like streams and lakes. Two inches are retained at the ground surface and evaporate back into the atmosphere in a relatively short period of time. Twenty-six of the 38 total inches enter the soil surface through infiltration. Twenty of these 26 inches go into soil storage and later are returned to the atmosphere by the combination of evaporation and transpiration (evapotranspiration). The remaining 6 inches of precipitation (16 percent of the total) have the potential to recharge the ground-water supply. Two of these 6 inches eventually move to springs, lakes, or streams as ground-water discharge. The remaining 4 inches either return to the atmosphere by evapotranspiration or are withdrawn to supply water needs. For further reading, refer to Ohio's Hydrologic Cycle, AEX-461.

Statewide averages applied to the county's average annual precipitation provide a rough estimate of how many inches may result in runoff and how many inches have the potential to reach aquifers. Based on statewide averages of runoff and ground-water recharge, Jackson County's 40.4 inches of average annual precipitation result in about 10.5 inches of runoff to streams and lakes, and about 6.5 inches have the potential to recharge aquifers annually. Values for particular locations may differ according to local conditions.

Table 1. Water Use in Jackson County, Ohio.1
Public Water System Population ServedPrimary Water Source3Water Usage (GPD)2Treatment Plant Capacity (GPD)
City of Jackson9,650S2,359,0004,000,000
City of Wellston-North7,020S1,000,8392,200,000
City of Wellston-South1,500G 942,3122,000,000
Village of Coalton800PS*53,500Plant abandoned
Village of Oak Hill1,830PS**211,000Plant abandoned
Jackson Co. Water9,600PS***670,000--
1 Estimates from Ohio EPA using adjusted 1996; information is based on data available at time of publication.
2 GPD = gallons per day.
3 S is surface water; G is groundwater; PS is purchase water; ND is no data available.
*Purchased treated water from JCWC.
**Purchased surface water from JCWC--will soon be purchased from Scioto Water Inc.
***Purchased surface water from City of Jackson, Wellston-North plant, or Ross County Water.

Water Use

Water use for each of Jackson County's public water-supply systems is given in Table 1. For each water system, this table presents an estimate of the population served, water source, estimated daily usage and treatment plant capacity. The county's largest public-water system is the Jackson County Water Company, which purchases its supply from the City of Jackson and two adjoining county rural water companies. The City of Jackson relies upon Hammertown and Jisco Lakes for its water sources. The City of Wellston utilizes Lake Rupert as its main source of water and, to a much lesser extent, maintains two wells to service one industry and one business.

Ground water is a minor water source for rural households in Jackson County. The City of Wellston utilizes Lake Rupert (67 percent of North Supply), Lake Alma (33 percent of North Supply) and three wells (100 percent of South Supply). The three wells at the South Plant are classified as ground water under surface water influence. The North plant provides 58 percent of total utility production. The South plant provides 42 percent of total utility production. Approximately 12 percent of the population obtains water from private wells. Based on an estimated usage of 75 gallons per person per day, 287,325 gallons per day (gpd) from private wells are used. Additional private water uses include livestock use (175,000 gpd), mostly from ground-water supplies. The remaining households use public-water supplies, as identified in Table 1.

Some water users in Ohio must register their withdrawals with the ODNR Division of Water. Through the Water Withdrawal Facility Registration Program, owners of facilities capable of withdrawing 100,000 gpd (70 gpm) or more must register those facilities. Information collected through this program includes withdrawal capacity, type of water sources, location and use, and location of discharge points. The program is for registration only, and not for allocation or permission. Registered withdrawers file annual reports of their water use. This information helps planners at ODNR to determine the availability of water for projected needs in order to better manage and protect Ohio's water resources. Documenting water use also provides official records for individual uses. For more information, contact the ODNR Division of Water.

Water Quality

Human activities and natural processes affect the quality of our water supplies. Throughout Ohio, human activities contribute to both point and nonpoint source (NPS) pollution. Point source pollution is the introduction of impurities into water (ground water or surface water) from an identifiable, known location. Examples of point sources can include industrial plants, power plants, commercial businesses, and wastewater treatment facilities.

NPS pollution also involves the introduction of impurities into a surface-water body or an aquifer, except the route is usually non-direct and the sources are diffuse in nature. A major portion of the sediment, nutrients, acids and salts, heavy metals, toxic chemicals, and pathogens enter the state's water resources through NPS pollution, affecting both ground and surface water. Examples include runoff from parking lots, and runoff and drainage from agricultural fields, feedlots, home lawns and gardens, residential development, construction, mining, and logging activities.

Natural processes such as precipitation also have an impact on surface water and, to a lesser extent, ground water. For example, rainfall that is acidic ("acid rain") may alter the quality of a stream, lake, or other water resource that receives the rainfall.

Ground Water

As water moves through the unconsolidated fine-grained, sedimentary bedrock aquifers underlying Jackson County, it dissolves the minerals contained in these formations and carries them in solution. Publication AEX-490.40 summarizes some of the county's natural ground-water quality aspects.

Human activities, such as agricultural production, domestic waste disposal, and lawn and turf care, may have some influence on the county's ground-water quality. In a 1989 study by Heidelberg College, 68 wells in the county were sampled for nitrate-nitrogen content, an indicator of water quality. Results showed that 37 wells (54.4 percent of total) contained nitrate-nitrogen concentrations in the range of 0 to 0.3 parts-per-million (ppm). This range is assumed to represent natural background levels. Twenty-one wells (30.9 percent) tested in the range of 0.3 to 3.0 ppm, values that may or may not indicate human influence. The six wells (8.8 percent) that tested in the range of 3.0 to 10 ppm, may indicate elevated concentrations resulting from human activities. Only four (5.9 percent) wells tested over the safe drinking water standard of 10 ppm nitrate-nitrogen. The average nitrate-nitrogen concentration for the 68 wells tested was 1.5 ppm. The design, location, and condition of a well, combined with the characteristics of the soils and geologic formations in which the well is constructed, influence the potential for pollutants to enter the well. The Jackson County Department of Health provides bacteriological water sampling for local citizens, and results of these tests generally indicate that the water meets current bacteriological standards. For more information contact the county health department at 200 East Main Street, Jackson, OH 45640.

Surface Water

Runoff and sediment from residential development, construction sites, and agricultural lands may enter the county's streams and lakes.

Through the Ohio Nonpoint Source Assessment and Water Resources Inventory, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) has identified 13,000 stream miles in Ohio that have been affected by NPS pollution. Based on the findings of the Assessment and Inventory, the Ohio Nonpoint Source Management Program has been implemented to help improve the quality of the state's waters.

Water quality monitoring has shown all or parts of the following Jackson County streams to be affected by NPS pollution: Little Raccoon Creek (Sand Run to Raccoon Creek), Dickason Run, Tarcamp Run, Goose Run, Flint Run, Mulga Run, Middle Fork Salt Creek (Pigeon Creek to Salt Lick Creek), Salt Lick Creek (headwaters to Buckeye Creek), Meadow Run, and Sand Run. These streams are affected by one or more of the following NPS pollution categories: coal mining, oil and gas production, crop and livestock production, on-site wastewater treatment systems, and timber harvesting. There are also streams within the county that have been shown to be affected by point source pollution (municipal and/or industrial wastewater). The point source affected streams include: Black Fork, Symmes Creek, Salt Lick Creek (Buckeye Creek to Salt Creek), and Pigeon Creek. Jackson County also contains streams which have good water quality and are attaining chemical and biological water quality standards. Monitoring has shown all or parts of the following streams to have good water quality: Little Raccoon Creek (headwaters to Sand Run), Keeton Run, Bear Run, and Little Bucklick Creek.

For specific information about the streams listed in the Assessment and Inventory documents, and details about the Nonpoint Source Management Program for the county, contact the Ohio EPA Southeast District Office 2195 Front Street, Logan, OH 43138. Information about nonpoint source pollution is also discussed in Nonpoint Source Pollution: Water Primer, AEX-465, available from your county Extension office.

It is important to note that as of June 1996 less than half of Ohio's streams have been evaluated by the Assessment. As water quality monitoring continues statewide, the list of Jackson County's affected streams and streams with good water quality will change. Residents have a major challenge to protect water resources from pollutants that could affect the quality of the water supply.


Water availability and quality are important public concerns. Water problems can be both costly and inconvenient. While the present availability of water is good for Jackson County, water is a precious resource that must be conserved and protected. We must all work together to maintain an adequate supply of good quality water.

This fact sheet provides information about the water resources in Jackson County. For more information concerning water resources and drinking-water quality in the county, contact the Jackson County office of Ohio State University Extension (372 Portsmouth Street, P.O. Box 110, Jackson, OH 45640). In addition, the following agencies may be able to provide information on other water resources topics in the county: Jackson Soil and Water Conservation District; Jackson County Health Department; ODNR Division of Water (Fountain Square, Columbus, OH 43224); U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Ohio District (975 West Third Avenue, Columbus, OH 43212); Ohio EPA (P.O. Box 1049, Columbus, OH 43216-1049); and Ohio Department of Health (ODH; P.O. Box 118, Columbus, OH 43266).


1990 Census and 1995 Estimates of Ohio's Population: State, Counties, Cities, and Villages. 1995. Ohio Department of Development.

Chemical quality, benthic organisms, and sedimentation in streams draining coal-mined lands in Racoon Creek Basin, Ohio, July 1984 through September 1986: U.S. Geological Survey Water Resources Investigations Report 88-4022. 1988. K. S. Wilson. USGS, Ohio District.

Floods at Jackson (Jackson County), Ohio: U.S. Geological Survey Hydrologic Investigations Atlas 325. 1968. E. E. Webber and R. I. Mayo. USGS Ohio District.

Jackson County, Ohio Soil Survey. 1985. USDA-SCS.

Jackson County Ground-Water Resources. 1997. D. H. Samples, A. W. Jones, J. M. Raab, L. C. Brown, and N. M. N'Jie. AEX-490.40. Ohio State University Extension.

Jackson Soil and Water Conservation District Resources Inventory. 1986. USDA-SCS.

Doane's Agricultural Report. 1992. Farm Water Systems.

Estimated Water Use in Ohio, 1990, Public Supply Data. 1993. USGS. Open-File Report 93-72.

Gazetteer of Ohio Streams. 1960. Ohio Water Inventory Report No. 12. ODNR Div. of Water.

Ground-Water Resources of Jackson and Vinton Counties. 1985. Alfred C. Walker. ODNR Div. of Water (map).

Hydrologic Atlas for Ohio: Average Annual Precipitation, Temperature, Streamflow, and Water Loss for the 50-Year Period 1931-1980. 1991. L. J. Hartstine. Water Inventory Report No. 28. ODNR Div. of Water.

Inventory of Municipal Water-Supply Systems by County, Ohio. 1977. Ohio Water Inventory Report No. 24. ODNR Div. of Water.

Inventory of Ohio's Lakes. 1980. Ohio Water Inventory Report No. 26. ODNR Div. of Water.

Monthly Station Normals of Temperature, Precipitation, and Heating and Cooling Degree Days, 1961-90, Ohio. 1992. Climatology of the United States, No. 81 (by state). NOAA.

Nitrate and Pesticides in Private Wells of Ohio: A cooperative study. 1989. Water Quality Laboratory, Heidelberg College.

Nitrate in Drinking Water. 1987. K. M. Mancl. Bulletin No. 744. Ohio State University Extension.

Nonpoint Source Pollution: Water Primer. 1993. R. Leeds and L. C. Brown. AEX-465. Ohio State University Extension.

Ohio Ground-Water Quality. USGS National Water Summary--Ohio. 1986. USGS. Water-Supply Paper 2325.

Ohio Ground-Water Resources. USGS National Water Summary--Ohio. 1984. USGS. Water-Supply Paper 2275. Ohio Nonpoint Source Management Program. 1993. ODNR.

Ohio Population by Governmental Unit. 1991. Ohio Data Users Center, Ohio Department of Development.

Ohio Surface-Water Resources. USGS National Water Summary--Ohio. 1985. USGS. Water-Supply Paper 2300.

Ohio Water Firsts. 1985. S. L. Frost and W. S. Nichols. Water Resources Foundation of Ohio, Inc.

Ohio Water Resource Inventory: Executive Summary and Volumes 1-4. 1992. Ohio EPA.

Ohio's Hydrologic Cycle. 1990. L. C. Brown and K. M. Coltman. AEX-461. Ohio State University Extension.

Private Water Systems Handbook. 1987. MWPS-14. Midwest Plan Service, Ames, IA.

State of Ohio Nonpoint Source Assessment: Volumes 1-6. 1990. Ohio EPA.

Surface and Ground Water Terminology. 1990. L. C. Brown and L. P. Black. AEX-460. Ohio State University Extension.

Surface Water Quality of Coal-Mine Lands in Raccoon Creek Basin, Ohio: U.S. Geological Survey Water Resources Investigations Report 85-4060. 10985. K. S. Wilson. USGS, Ohio District.

Water--Ohio's Remarkable Resource. 1982. ODNR Div. of Water. Withdrawal and Distribution of Water By Public Water Supplies in Ohio, 1985. 1989. USGS. Open-File Report 89-423.


This publication was produced through the Ohio Water Resources Education Project, in cooperation with: ODNR Division of Water; Ohio EPA; USGS, Ohio District; and ODH. Project leaders are Larry C. Brown and N'Deye Marie N'Jie. Partial financial support for this publication was provided by these cooperating agencies and programs: Jackson County office of OSU Extension; Overholt Drainage Education and Research Program; and the Ohio Management Systems Evaluation Area Project (USDA CSREES Grant No. 94-EWQI-1-9057).

The project leaders express appreciation to the following reviewers: Brian McPherson (Jackson County Engineer), John Meredith (USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Jackson County), Ken Welling (Jackson City Water Department), Jeff Argabright (Wellston City Water Department), Larry Foster (Jackson County Water Company), Lana Cherrington (Jackson County Health Department), A. Wayne Jones, David Cashell, and Leonard Black (ODNR Division of Water); Scott Golden (Bureau of Local Services, ODH); Steve Hindall (USGS, Ohio District); Anthony J. Kramer (USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, State Office, Columbus); Julie Gillenwater (Ohio EPA Division of Drinking and Ground Waters); and Larry Antosch (Ohio EPA Division of Surface Water).

A special thanks to Kim Wintringham, Technical Editor (Section of Communications and Technology, The Ohio State University), for editorial and graphic production.

All educational programs conducted by Ohio State University Extension are available to clientele on a nondiscriminatory basis without regard to race, color, creed, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, gender, age, disability or Vietnam-era veteran status.

Keith L. Smith, Associate Vice President for Ag. Adm. and Director, OSU Extension.

TDD No. 800-589-8292 (Ohio only) or 614-292-6181

| Ohioline | Search | Fact Sheets | Bulletins |