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Cedar River Watershed
Septic System Mapping and Outreach



Cedar River Watershed Survey

Residents who live within the Cedar River Watershed are invited to participate in a short survey. A random group of residents residing in the Cedar River Watershed may have received a postcard in the mail from us. The postcard will contain a QR code that you can scan with your phone to take the survey as well as a unique identification number. When prompted, please input that unique identification number while taking the survey to avoid future mailings from us. Thank you for your participation in this critical study as we work to clean up the Cedar River Watershed, your participation is greatly appreciated.

Goal: Improve water quality and public health in the Cedar River Watershed 

Background Information

The Cedar River Watershed is 92,000 acres in size and located in the counties of Clare, Gladwin, and Roscommon Michigan. For more than twenty years bacterial contamination in the Cedar River Watershed has been a serious concern, impacting total and partial body contact recreation. Since 2007, the monitored parts of the Cedar River have been under public health advisories a total of 135 days for excessive levels of E. coli. The lower portion of the middle branch of the Cedar River has been listed on the Section 303(d) since 2004 with the upper portion added in 2019 for total body contact impaired recreational use by the presence of E. coli  


The Cedar River Watershed Project is made possible through a grant funded by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. The project is identifying goals to be implemented to address areas of concern, specifically, the health of septic systems and their potential impact to water quality and public health. The use of mapping technology and public engagement are vital strategies to ensure these goals are met.

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Community Benefits

As an organization that is devoted to ensuring the health and safety of the individuals living in the counties we represent, we want to alleviate the burden of illness potentially caused by elevated levels of E. coli in the watershed. Public health is at the forefront of this grant project. E. coli can cause gastrointestinal illness in individuals who have ingested contaminated water or infect open wounds that come in contact with contaminated water. You shouldn’t have to spend time worrying about your family getting sick when you are spending quality time together. 


There are other driving factors as to why this grant project is vital for our residents. The Cedar River Watershed is utilized for recreational activities, an important one being fishing. Not only is fishing a relaxing activity for residents to participate in, but it is also a job and revenue producing activity. In the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), fishing generates 1 million jobs and over $45 million in retail sales annually. Fishing waters that are heavily contaminated with E. coli are not ideal, meaning lower revenue for individuals relying on fishing to support themselves. 

Homes within the Cedar River Watershed could have higher property value for resale once the watershed is no longer contaminated. Individuals looking to purchase a home may be more motivated to settle in the Cedar River Watershed where contamination levels of E. coli are consistently below health limits, indicating a healthy watershed. 


Central Michigan District Health Department knows that replacing a septic system can be costly, which is why we will be utilizing the data produced from this grant project to obtain further funding that supports a cost-share program for residents in the Cedar River Watershed. We will share information regarding this cost-share program as we have it in the future. 

Project Description

Mapping Technologies

Mapping technologies will provide an innovative, digital, to scale septic system inventory of all septic systems within the watershed area that is accessible by the public. This helps watershed partners use data to gain a better understanding of the health of systems in the watershed. Each septic system in the watershed will be mapped in Fetch Geographic Information System (FetchGIS), including the capture of system characteristics, such as permit number, tank size, drain field type, install date and much more. About 8,000 septic systems will be mapped into FetchGIS including every paper file containing septic system data at Central Michigan District Health Department (CMDHD). 

With the use of computer technology via FetchGIS, CMDHD plans to work with homeowners on a voluntary basis to identify, visit, and map septic systems not on file with an emphasis on site visits to properties in critical areas with the highest risk to watershed contamination. An ongoing effort to map septic systems continues as unmapped systems are discovered during daily field visits. This allows for the discovery and management of any at-risk or failing systems, which can lead to an improvement in water quality by reducing human sources of bacteria. 

Public Engagement

Ongoing engagement with the public is vital to raise awareness and increase knowledge of the impact individual residents can have on improving water quality in their watershed. 

CMDHD invites all residents in the watershed to work with the health department on raising awareness and improving water quality in the Cedar River Watershed. 

In the coming weeks, CMDHD will be sharing a survey with residents in the Cedar River Watershed area. We kindly ask residents to let your voice be heard by taking a brief survey. Survey results will inform stakeholders how best to use limited resources to improve water quality within the watershed. 

Questions? Email

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