Between 1943 and 1962 soil and water conservation districts (SWCDs) were formed in each county. In the 1940s SWCDs primarily assisted farmers with cropland erosion control and drainage. By 1962 their mission included many urban and agricultural water quality and management issues. The OSU College of Agriculture initially provided support and guidance. In 1969 SB 160 transferred that role to ODNR in a new Division of Soil and Water Conservation Districts and a new Soil and Water Conservation Commission. SB 13 passed in 1949 creating ODNR and the Division of Lands and Soils to complete a state soil and land use inventory. In 1979 the General Assembly gave the DSWCD regulatory authority for agricultural pollution abatement. In 1982 SB 155 merged the two divisions into the Division of Soil and Water Conservation.
The State Water Conservation Board was created, and then abolished, during the 1930s to survey Ohio’s surface and ground water resources. The Ohio Water Supply Board was created in 1939, and in 1945 its authorities were expanded and it was renamed the Ohio Water Resources Board. Creation of ODNR in 1949 transferred these programs into the new Division of Water with responsibilities for ground water monitoring, stream gauging, collection of well logs, water resources characterization, test well drilling, flood studies, ground water recharge, and reservoir sedimentation. Additional responsibilities added since then include dam safety, floodplain management, water planning, and the water withdrawal facility registration program.
In 2010 HB 1 merged the Divisions of Water and Soil and Water Conservation into the new Division of Soil and Water Resources, which operate in partnership with the Division of Recycling and Litter Prevention.