Entries for the 'Source Water Protection' Category


This video from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency highlights the City of Fredericktown's efforts to reduce their vulnerability to climate change, particularly drought and its effects on their source water. City officials used EPA's Climate Resilience Evaluation and Awareness Tool (CREAT) to help identify and evaluate the potential impacts of climate change on their utility and develop adaptive management strategies. 



A healthy environment can make an area a pleasant place to live, visit, and do business. For water utilities, healthy ecosystems are often associated with compliance, whether they contribute to cleaner sourcewater, or indicate a properly adjusted TMDL. However, healthy environments don’t always happen on their own, particularly when humans get involved. If your local government needs help managing environmental issues, LGEAN can be a good place to get started.

Water Environmental Resources
The Local Government Environmental Assistance Network (LGEAN) is intended to provide environmental management, planning, funding, and regulatory information for local government officials, managers, and staff. Water utilities will likely find their water topic areas to be of most interest, with pages for drinking water, groundwater, stormwater, wastewater, watersheds, and wetlands. These topic pages include issue summaries followed by links to resources from the EPA and other federal and non-government programs, as well as links to relevant publications, databases, and financial assistance programs. These resources may not provide detailed information on specific problems a utility is facing, but they can be a great place to begin wrapping your head around an important issue in your community.

Other Environmental Issues
In addition to the water-specific resources, it can be worthwhile to explore the other topic areas on the site. For example, the environmental management systems and smart growth sections can provide good context for community-wide approaches to problems like watershed management and distribution/collection system expansion projects. And the financing section can be a good place to skim for programs related to issues your area is facing.

Stay Up-to-Date
If you find the resources at LGEAN useful, you can also sign up for their email update, which keeps subscribers informed on new funding opportunities, federal policy updates, and upcoming conferences/events, among other topics. (For an example, see the most recent update here.)

If environmental issues are a problem at your utility (and where aren’t they), LGEAN can provide a great starting point for your response. If they have a particularly helpful program we’ve missed here, tell us in the comments!


The most recent state to experience widespread severe drought is California. Water restrictions are going into effect and everyone seems to be having in-depth discussions about the future of water resources in the state. Though California’s drought is particularly severe, a glance at the latest Drought Monitor report shows several areas of the country are feeling a little parched. And even if your region of the country isn’t experiencing a drought right now, it doesn’t hurt to have some plans in place for next time things dry up for a while. One place to start on that project could be the Rural Community Assistance Corporation’s drought resources page.

A Great Starting Point for Drought Contingency Planning
RCAC has collected drought contingency planning resources from a number of states and organizations with previous drought response experience. These resources include Drought Contingency Plan templates from both Texas and IHS, the TCEQ handbook for drought contingency planning, presentation slides from RCAC drought contingency planning training sessions, the Urban Drought Guidebook from California DWR, several resources for calculating irrigation needs for landscape plantings and lawn sprinkler systems, and an Action Plan for Emergency Drought Management co-developed by RCAC and the New Mexico Environment Department Drinking Water Bureau. In addition, there’s a brief summary of a report on climate change and water in the Southwest, for background on the current water situation. Some of these materials should be useful to any utility that wants to be prepared for the next time water resources run low, while others will be most helpful for utilities with no previous plan in place that need one in a hurry.

California Resources Also Available
Since the RCAC page was created in response to California’s current drought crisis, it makes sense that some of the resources would be specific to California. In addition to the general resources mentioned above, RCAC has also collected sample water conservation and water use restriction resources from the Water Resources Control Board, and a spreadsheet of California licensed water haulers. They’re also where we heard about the Water Resources Control Board’s CAA Interim Emergency Drinking Water financial assistance program. This fund is intended to provide interim replacement drinking water for economically disadvantaged communities with contaminated water supplies, but is only available to eligible California utilities. See the link for details on the program.

More Drought Resources
If you want to check out more resources, you can search our documents database by typing the keyword “drought” into the search box. If there’s more drought response or planning resources we should know about, tell us in the comments!


NASA's new SMAP (Soil Moisture Active Passive) satellite will provide worldwide soil moisture readings every 2-3 days. This data will be invaluable to scientists, engineers, and local decision makers alike, improving flood prediction and drought monitoring.


As a small water system operator, the journey of supplying safe, clean water to consumers begins at the source. Source water protection is best approached through collaboration and can be enhanced with the use of voluntary conservation practices by local agricultural professionals. That’s why the Source Water Collaborative (SWC) developed a simple 6-step toolkit designed to facilitate collaboration between source water stakeholders (like you) and landowners through USDA’s agricultural conservation programs.

Step 1: Understand How Key USDA Conservation Programs Can Help Protect and Improve Sources of Drinking Water
In order to foster beneficial relationships for source water protection, it is important to understand what national, state, and local organizations can be of service to you. Two USDA sponsored organizations are highlighted in the toolkit: the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Farm Service Agency (FSA). The NRCS exists to provide technical and financial assistance to both landowners and operators for the enactment of voluntary conservation practices. The FSA works to provide farm commodity, credit, conservation, disaster, loan, and price support programs. Having a working knowledge of specific programs, key contacts, and common vocabulary are vital first steps to take in your source water project.

Step 2: Define What Your Source Water Program Can Offer
Next you’ll need to understand NRCS and FSA programs and how they relate to specific information and regulations in your state. This can be done quickly by browsing by location for NRCS State Offices at nrcs.usda.gov and at fsa.usda.gov. It’s important to note that the staff of these organizations often times are the most aware of regulatory structure of environmental programs, so be sure to make it known that you wish to work collaboratively. You should then focus on identifying what specific areas or projects that collaboration with conservation practices could help protect. This is your opportunity to share valuable information such as source water data and GIS maps in order to identify potential water quality improvements.

Step 3: Take Action
Step 3 of the collaborative toolkit focuses on making concrete moves to begin an action plan. It’s suggested you start by contacting your Assistant State Conservationist for Programs as a beginning reference point. Be clear about your intentions to foster a partnership regarding source water concerns and NRCS programs that can be of assistance. Linked in the toolkit are initial talking points, draft agenda for first meeting, and key USDA documents to help you begin your first steps to action.

Step 4: Find Resources
This is where you do your homework. Step 4 lists several links of very useful conservation and source water resources. Resources include a list of NRCS conservation programs, state drinking water programs, watershed projects, maps of nutrient loading, and much more. These resources will ensure you develop your project with the correct programs and people.

Step 5: Coordinate with Other Partners
This crucial step enables you to make sure that you are partnered with the people that will give your project the highest probability of being successful. The links listed in this step are for key partners who can bring data, technical capabilities, useful state and local perspectives, and other important stakeholders. These links include EPA regional source water protection contacts, state source water program contacts, state clean water programs, and other federal agencies that can make your efforts more productive.

Step 6: Communicate Your Success & Stay Up-to-Date
Finally, share your source water protection experiences with SWC to allow improvement in the toolkit as well as influencing source water colleagues by promoting the toolkit.

Finding the right partners for voluntary, collaborative conservation practices is a progressive step for improved source water protection. By utilizing the resources and tips provided in the collaboration toolkit, you can put yourself in the best position to maximize your source water protection potential. Visit Source Water Collaborative for more information on any of your protection questions.


Fall has technically just arrived, but planning for winter should already be on the radar of small communities who experience freezing temperatures. While salt application broadly causes minimal environmental impact, runoff from a storage facility can be problematic.

The Ohio EPA has a detailed guidance as well as a factsheet on salt storage with water supply protection in mind. While this guidance is most helpful for communities developing new storage facilities, it is also incredibly useful for checking for potential issues and developing best practices for salt handling. 

If you have any additional tips, we'd love for you to share in a comment! 


Do you have a source water protection plan? Whether you do or it's a to-do, it is helpful to understand the how and why of protecting your water supply.

This video from USGS and accompanying materials uses four examples with very different aquifer-well combinations to illustrate why some water supply wells are more vulnerable to contaminants than others. It serves as a helpful reminder than source water protection activities are not one-size-fits-all. 


Small communities interested in source water protection across their regional area may be interested in a new program from the team behind SmallWaterSupply.org (SWSO). PrivateWellClass.org is a basic education-focused website funded by the US EPA, in partnership with the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP). 

The Private Well Class centers on a 10 week email course that teaches homeowners how to properly care for and maintain their water well. This includes introductory information on geology, well contamination and water testing. The site is designed to serve the 45 million Americans who rely on a private well for their drinking water and includes a pre- and post-test quiz to test knowledge improvement.

Understanding how to prevent groundwater contamination, both on the property and via cross-connection control, will be addressed in the lessons as well as during a series of three live webinars.  

Steve Wilson, the project manager at SmallWaterSupply.org and a career groundwater hydrologist, has combined his own knowledge with the vast resources already available on private wells. As with SWSO, the goal with PrivateWellClass.org is to distill the best information into user-friendly content and lessons. 

To date, more than 1200 individuals have signed up for The Private Well Class. Enrollment opened in early December 2012 and the team is actively reaching out to state agencies, extension offices and other organizations that serve homeowners. 


A youth camp led by graduate students from the University of Idaho gets students from the Coeur d’Alene and Spokane tribes involved in outdoor activities and, more importantly, hands-on scientific water study.

The camp is scheduled to continue for three years, offering students the opportunity to combine their enjoyment of the outdoors with the scientific importance of protecting watersheds, as well as the relationships between the landscape and water resources. Programs like this can help keep students interested in science, and can introduce them further to the importance of water management and environmental protections.
There are a number of educational resources available online to apply in your area and help engrain the importance of water and water protection. For instance, the Water Education Foundation offers elementary education materials for grades 4-6 on their website, and advanced materials for grades 7-12. Educators can even order lessons and programs from their site covering subjects from storm water to complete water science, water conservation, and more.
Similarly, Northern Arizona University has established an Environmental Education Outreach Program, with a variety of environmental science subjects and materials for grades K-16.
Introducing the importance of water protection and treatment to students not only helps improve science education levels, but helps them become interested in the crucial matters of water management that will be needed for generations to come. 

This article was first published in the Winter 2011 issue of Spigot News, the Ohio EPA's drinking water program newsletter. Many thanks for allowing us to republish it!

Ohio EPA conducts sanitary surveys once every three years at community public water systems (PWSs) and once every five years at noncommunity PWSs. The purpose of a sanitary survey is to evaluate and document the capability of a water system’s source, treatment, storage, distribution, operation and maintenance, and management; these all may adversely impact the ability of the system to reliably produce and distribute water that meets drinking water standards.  

This article covers the sanitary survey or other investigatory site visits conducted at the water source and concentrates on the most common deficiencies found during the visit of small PWSs. Even though the article focuses on small systems, similar deficiencies can be found at larger public water systems. Future articles will cover treatment, distribution and other topics. 

There are common deficiencies surveyors hope not to find when conducting a sanitary survey, or when following up on complaint investigations or responding to total coliform bacteria positive sample results. Figures 1 and 2 show poor water sources and figure 3 shows an acceptable water source. Figure 1 shows a well equipped with a sanitary seal which is missing bolts. It also shows that the casing is flush or in line with the finished grade, and the electrical wire and raw water line are exposed and unprotected. Although the well is vented, it does not have a screened vent. The well is also not protected from surface water runoff, other contaminants or critters. 

Figure 2 shows a public water system well located in a parking lot. The well cap is missing bolts and therefore is not properly secured to the top of the well casing. There is also a depression surrounding the casing. If rainwater pools near the well, it can seep down along the casing and negatively impact the ground water and its quality. Located to the left of the well are bags of sodium chloride, which increases the potential for rust at the base of the well. Also, there is not enough protection around the well to prevent damage from motorized vehicles to the casing or electrical conduit.  

Although you can’t see this in the picture, the well has a 1988 approved “National Sanitation Foundation” (NSF) well cap but it is not a “Water System Council” PAS-97 (or Pitless Adapter Standard, 1997) approved cap as required. The PAS-97 cap provides a properly screened vent which is not present in this cap. 

Figure 3 shows an acceptable water source. The well casing extends approximately 24 inches above finished grade, which is beyond what is required (at least 12 inches above finished grade). The finished grade is sloped to drain surface water away from the well.  The approved well cap fits flush over the top of the casing and electrical conduit; it provides a tight seal against the casing and prevents the entrance of water, dirt, animals, insects or other foreign matter. The well is also properly protected with concrete filled posts to protect it from motorized vehicles and mowers. 




The St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council Recently reached out to the community for assistance in developing a geographic response plan.

A geographic response plan is a planning document that provides crucial information guiding first responders in quickly and safely assessing and addressing oil or chemical spills that may threaten water sources. The Washington State Department of Ecology has a slideshow available the covers some of the basic information about what these plans are and how they should be developed.
In the case of this particular council, they were seeking information about access points and the availability of access to the river should a spill occur. By receiving permission for and documenting the access points, first responders and cleanup crews will be able to address spills more immediately and limit the area of damage. As the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection explains, “As a response tool the GRP allows quick decisions to be made by providing detailed geographic information on shoreline types, sensitive natural and cultural resources. This information, together with estimates of response equipment requirements, staging locations and pre-identified deployment strategies for protecting sensitive environmental areas, provides a basis for local responder to develop a more effective and coordinated initial response.”
Tribal water operators may find it useful to review local GRPs to understand how a spill and the resultant response plan may affect their operations, and to ensure that they are included in the list of people to be contacted should a spill occur.
The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s website provides detailed information about how their GRP was developed. While the challenges and constraints for communities in Alaska are unique, the site offers extensive details and examples that may be helpful in guiding tribal communities and rural areas in developing a plan of their own. 

Amigos Bravos, a non-profit organization, was formed in 1988 with the mission of helping to protect the rivers and Rio Grande watershed in New Mexico. Their work covers a variety of functions, all of which are aimed at protecting and helping provide clean, safe water to the communities that rely on it.

Their Clean Water Circuit Rider program offers several Clean Water Act workshops throughout the year for communities in New Mexico, Colorado, and Arizona. They also organize volunteer river cleanups, and work with affiliated organizations to assist in compiling water quality sampling reports.
Organizations like this, working with limited resources, demonstrate what is possible in terms of protecting and providing access to safe, clean water for your communities. Amigos Bravos mission reaches into a variety of issues, and yours may be more focused or singular depending on your community’s concerns and needs. But there are several areas of interest on their site to explore, including fact sheets that provide not only information about specific issues, but also contact information for community members to voice their concerns directly to officials and other action items.
Explore their site for additional ideas that are relevant to your community, and be sure to contact them for information about their workshops and resources that would be useful in developing or hosting programs of your own. 

In January, 2012, the U.S. EPA and the Corporation for National and Community Service announced that Indian General Assistance Program grants could be used as match funding for AmeriCorps volunteer programs.

AmeriCorps support for tribal groups can include environmental programs, such as rehabilitating and protecting water sources, expand water services, increase capacity for existing systems, and other programs. These are just a few examples related to water concerns, but AmeriCorps volunteers are also available for education, environmental preservation, disaster preparedness, and additional options.
AmeriCorps has produced a PDF with information on leveraging environmental support, which you can view here. They may be useful in helping tribal water operators develop several types or phases of environmental protection programs related to water issues. 

Today we had a SmallWaterSupply.org reader call us up with a specific request. He was looking for information on the potential consequences of grazing and stabling livestock, in this case horses, too close to a well. 

We found a USEPA document on protecting drinking water from horse waste as well as several more general resources he could use to educate the livestock owner and other community members on this topic. 

  • A poster on how farms can protect drinking water sources
  • A video on the basics of groundwater 
  • A factsheet on groundwater misconceptions
  • An article on how water supplies become polluted
  • 5 video PSAs on source water protection
  • A 15 minute video on source water protection (part 1 | part 2)
  • A 9 minute video on source water protection and understanding sources
  • An 8 page "Good Neighbor Guidelines" for Livestock Management

 Do you know of other resources on livestock and source water protection?

by Jeremiah Corbin, Source Water Protection Specialist at South Dakota Association of Rural Water Systems
Put up signs
Post signs along the border of your source water protection area to notify people that
any pollution in that area can affect the quality of local drinking water.

Use and dispose of harmful materials properly
Don’t dump them on the ground! Hazardous waste that is dumped or buried can contaminate the soil and move down into the ground water, or be carried into nearby surface waters by runoff during rainstorms. You might be surprised to learn that a number of products you use at home contain hazardous or toxic substances. Products like motor oil, pesticides, leftover paints or paint cans, mothballs, flea collars, weed killers, household cleaners and even a number of medicines contain materials that can be harmful to surface water and ground water.

Don’t overuse pesticides or fertilizers
You might apply fertilizers to make your grass thick and green, your flowers colorful and your vegetable crop abundant. You also might use pesticides to keep bugs from ruining what the fertilizers have helped to produce. What you might not know is that many of these fertilizers and pesticides contain hazardous chemicals that can travel through the soil and contaminate ground water. If you feel you must use these chemicals, use them in moderation.

Volunteer in your community
Find a watershed or wellhead protection organization in your community and volunteer to help. If there are no active groups, consider starting one. Use EPA’s “Adopt Your Watershed” to locate groups in your community, or visit the Watershed Information Network’s “How to Start a Watershed Team”. These tools can be located by searching epa.gov.
Identify ways you can help prevent runoff pollution from your home, business or farm
Check out Give Water a Hand (for students) or the National Farm*A*Syst/ Home*A*Syst Voluntary Assessment Programs (for farmers and homeowners) to find out how you can be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.
Join in a beach, stream or wetland cleanup
You can make new friends while you help protect source water.

Prepare a presentation about your watershed for a school or civic organization
Discuss water quality threats, including polluted runoff and habitat loss. Highlight things people can do to protect water quality, including limiting fertilizer use and eliminating the use of herbicides and pesticides. Research your presentation using EPA’s Nonpoint Source Program.

Organize a storm drain stenciling project
Stencil a message next to the street drain reminding people “Dump No Waste - Drains to River” with the image of a fish. Stencils are also available for lakes, streams, bays, ground water and oceans, as well as the simple “Protect Your Water” logo with the image of a glass and faucet. Produce and distribute a flyer for households to remind residents that storm drains dump directly into your local water body.
This article was originally published in the January-February issue of ServiceLine, a publication of the South Dakota Association of Rural Water Systems.
SmallWaterSupply.org Comment: This information would make a great handout for your customers, in addition to reminding you about the importance of source water protection for your community.  Contact us if you have any questions.



Initiating the conversation is sometimes the hardest part. One of the tricky roles that water system operators, especially managers, have is communicating important issues to the decision makers in the community. You best understand the challenges facing the water system, but you most often don't control the funding that can make things happen.

In this new create-your-own guide from the Source Water Collaborative, you can create a brochure designed specifically to educate decision makers in your community about protecting sources of drinking water. This can be the topic that helps spur further discussions about taking small steps towards a more sustainable water supply.

This guide covers three key areas:

  1. Development Patterns - Offers local officials considerations for promoting development in already developed areas or in less environmentally sensitive areas.

  2. - Offers local officials considerations for promoting responsible use locally and regionally.

While source water protection may just be one important issue in your small community, it is one that is readily understandable and has clear implications for the present and the future. It may be that 'low hanging fruit' that can spur even bigger changes and support down the line.

How To Run Your System Like A Business is a series at SmallWaterSupply.org, appearing on Mondays


By Sandra Fallon, National Environmental Services Center

Water is critical to life. Ensuring that our drinking water sources are protected—now and in the future—not only means safe drinking water for us, but for our children and grandchildren.

Source water protection refers to the concept of protecting sources of drinking water, including water from lakes, rivers, and underground aquifers, from overuse and contamination. Source water protection plans can help drinking water systems and the communities they serve keep our drinking water safe. But that's not the only reason for developing these plans. Consider the value of a dependable supply of clean, safe drinking water to the local economy, development opportunities, and quality of life. Or the importance of saving money on expensive water treatment costs, especially savings that can be realized from pollution prevention.

Potential Threats to Local Water Sources
Any substance that goes down the drain, runs off of urban or agricultural landscapes, or is buried or stored underground, could eventually end up in drinking water sources. A variety of activities or land uses could pose a threat to your local waters, including agricultural practices, logging, mining, military bases, active and abandoned industrial or commercial facilities, hazardous waste sites, solid waste landfills (especially older ones), oil and gas operations, construction sites, storm water runoff from urban areas, failing septic systems and deteriorating sewer mains and wastewater treatment plant discharge, salt water intrusion (contamination) of coastal aquifers, forms of transportation that may create avenues for spills (railroads along rivers or creeks, storm water discharge from interstate highways, barges on rivers), underground tanks or wells that store waste disposal, and lawn care practices. The list could go on.

Another concern is the unsustainable use of groundwater from our underground aquifers. Over the past 75 years, as a result of improved energy sources and technologies for pumping groundwater to the surface, this resource has become an important supply of water in the U.S. Approximately one-half of the population relies on groundwater for drinking water, and up to three-fourths of groundwater withdrawals are used for agricultural irrigation. Although groundwater supplies in the U.S are vast, this water is essentially being pumped out of the ground faster than nature can replenish it. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, while the extent of depletion in groundwater levels due to increased pumping is not regularly monitored or analyzed, available information indicates that underground water-level declines in the U.S. are widespread. The consequences of these declines include increased pumping costs, water quality deterioration, reduced amount of water in streams and lakes, and land subsidence.

Current Measures That Protect Drinking Water Sources
According to Robert Glennon in his book Groundwater Follies: Groundwater Pumping and the Fate of America's Fresh Waters, groundwater withdrawal is regulated in different ways in different states. Many western states use the prior appropriation doctrine, which protects the rights of senior water users (those who were first to use the water). This doctrine generally means that water rights are not linked to land ownership, and senior users can continue to use it for beneficial purposes; subsequent users may use the remaining water only if it does not interfere with senior users’ rights. Some western states and most eastern states rely on the reasonable use doctrine, which allows pumping for any beneficial use but does not protect senior pumpers from newer pumpers. Some states rely on the English rule of absolute ownership, which allows property owners to pump unlimited amounts from beneath their property. Two states require that all landowners above the aquifer share the water. Although some states require groundwater pumpers to obtain a permit from their state agency, the general outcome of these practices is that most states regularly allow new wells to be developed.

For surface water use, two water rights doctrines generally apply. Most western states rely on the prior appropriation doctrine; most eastern states rely on the reasonable use doctrine, which allows property owners adjacent to the water body to make reasonable use of it. These rules can generate controversy and legal challenges, especially in times of drought or limited water availability.

Various laws are in place to manage the impacts of water pollution. For example, laws regulate the burial and monitoring of underground storage tanks (UST) that contain fuels, chemicals, or other hazardous substances that can leak out and pose a threat to groundwater. There are 640,000 USTs subject to regulation; many others are not. Other laws govern the injection of hazardous and nonhazardous wastes, including industrial, oil and gas production, radiological, and other waste, into deep or shallow wells or natural underground formations. Underground injection is used to dispose of more than 50 percent of these liquids generated in the U.S. While most underground injection wells are considered to be safe, some types of shallow wells that hold motor vehicle wastes or stormwater drainage, for example, are some of the most overlooked sources of groundwater contamination. An estimated 1.5 million of these wells are in existence.

Great strides have been made to curb the level of pollution discharged into U.S. waterways from point sources. Point source pollution is wastewater from sewage treatment plants, power plants, manufacturing or other facilities that is treated and discharged directly into a water body through one point, such as through a pipe or ditch. Being able to trace the source of contamination helps to determine ways to reduce the contaminant's concentration or eliminate it as a problem. Point source pollution is regulated by the Clean Water Act, the federal law that sets contaminant and discharge limits for specific waterways.

Contaminants also enter water bodies through dispersed, or nonpoint sources. Nonpoint source pollution occurs when water that flows over the landscape or through the soil as a result of rain, snow melt, or irrigation, picks up natural or human-made pollutants and makes it way into surface waters (rivers, lakes, streams) or underground aquifers. Pollutants can include chemicals, pesticides, sediment, animal waste, and in the case of faulty septic or sewer systems, human waste. This nonpoint source pollution process can occur in agricultural, urban, or forested areas, and on public or private property.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, nonpoint source pollution is the primary cause of water quality problems, and is harmful to drinking water sources, recreation, fisheries, and wildlife. Water that runs off agricultural land is considered to be the number one source of water quality problems in the rivers and lakes assessed by federal and state governments. Faulty septic and other sewer systems have been identified as a leading cause of water pollution in small communities and rural areas.

Because there are so many types of nonpoint sources of pollution from so many dispersed locations across the country, it is considered to be difficult to regulate. For the most part, the Clean Water Act leaves the regulation of nonpoint pollution sources up to each state. While some states have adopted regulations, many states use other incentives to curb this pollution, such as facilitating local watershed and land use planning efforts, encouraging the use of best management practices (a wide variety of strategies, such as planting vegetation along a waterway to help remove or filter pollutants flowing from adjacent land), providing technical assistance, and sharing costs with local partners for implementing prevention and control measures.

Water Quality and Water Use Challenges
To be safe, public drinking water systems, which are regulated by another federal law, the Safe Drinking Water Act, are required to treat the water they draw from local water sources. The drinking water they produce for public consumption must not include contaminant levels higher than what the law allows, and public water systems in the U.S. have been very successful in protecting public health and providing safe water to drink.

But given the fact that federal and state regulations allow certain levels of pollution to enter our water sources in the first place, local leaders and drinking water system personnel may ask "Are our current water protection strategies adequate?" Or, "What costs are imposed on the drinking water utility and the community to treat the water and remove contaminants?"

The issues surrounding current water use and water pollution practices are complex, but in the end, there are important questions at stake. Is it best to prevent or seek to control water pollution? Who has the right to pollute? Who is responsible for cleaning it up? To what extent do citizens have the right to a reliable supply of clean and safe water? At what point do economic, agricultural, or private property interests infringe on public health or water availability? What is the appropriate balance for protecting everyone's rights? And finally, where do local governments and their public drinking water systems stand and what options are available at the local level?

Source Water Protection Planning Can Help
Source water protection planning involves a series of steps that can help a community, group of communities, or everyone in a watershed work toward preventing or limiting threats to the water sources. A watershed is an area of land that drains into a river, river system, or other body of water such as a lake. Watersheds and the water flowing through them may cross many boundaries such as city, county, state, and even national borders. Planning on a watershed level, rather than for a single community or body of water, has the potential to be more effective in protecting waterways. It's not surprising that the most successful source water protection planning requires the combined efforts of many partners, such as local leaders; economic, energy, and agricultural interests; public and private water systems; resource managers; citizen groups; and the public. Local watershed organizations may already be working on source water protection and may have a lot of information available.

Initial planning steps include identifying the watershed or source water protection area; identifying contamination or threats to water availability; and evaluating how susceptible the water sources are to these threats. State drinking water agencies have already identified some of this information for every public drinking water system in their state. It is available in a document called a source water assessment. This assessment may need to be updated and developed in more detail, but it can be a good starting place.

The next steps include developing action plans detailing what will be done, when, and by whom; determining management measures to prevent, reduce, or eliminate threats (measures can include zoning, developing local ordinances, purchasing land near the water source, and public education); and identifying alternative sources of water in case of emergencies. There are many resources available to help with watershed or source water protection planning, and you may want to consider working with an outside facilitator, such as a technical assistance provider from the Rural Community Assistance Partnership or your state drinking water agency.

Developing a source water or watershed protection plan is a voluntary activity that requires time, effort, resources, and local leadership. Important payoffs can include reduced costs for drinking water treatment, more reliable water supplies, and increased public health, quality of life, economic opportunities, and environmental protection. Ultimately, ensuring we have safe and clean water to drink is everyone's responsibility. However, local decisions are critical for protecting water sources from pollution and overuse. Investigating the situation in your community, state, or watershed; bringing all parties to the table; discussing all perspectives; setting priorities; and enacting workable solutions at the local level may offer the best chance to prevent contamination and ensure safer and more sustainable water sources for the long term.

This article is part of the Water We Drink series, developed by the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) and the National Environmental Services Center (NESC).

This Saturday, Sept 25th, at over 1700 sites around the country, you can bring in unused, unwanted, extra, or expired drugs (controlled substances) and prescription medicines for free anonymous disposal.  This is an opportunity for the public to do their part in participating in source water protection nationwide.
How Is This Source Water Protection?
So many prescription drugs end up being thrown away or flushed down the toilet that they can end up coming out of a wastewater treatment plant and discharged into the nations river system (80% have traces, according to P2D2).  Or, where small communities/villages have no centralized treatment, these drugs can end up in your septic systems, and eventually find their way into the groundwaters that may be your drinking water supply as well.  The best way to eliminate that threat is to properly dispose of drugs and medicines.
How Can I Alert My Customers?
If you are serious about source water protection, take action today.  Create flyer's and put them up in town letting people know where they can take their medications.  If you have a website or facebook page for your community or water system, put up a link to the program site.  Get involved, its an opportunity to let your customers know how important source water protection is and how they can do their part to protect their drinking water supply.
For More Information.....
The website for the event is here.  On the site, you can find the nearest location in your area where you can take your medicines in.  It also describes what things are not eligible for this program (illegal drugs, liquids, needles, etc).
Have you heard of the P2D2 program started at Pontiac High School in Illinois a number of years ago?  If not, check out their website here.  Started by a teacher and his students, this program is a testiment to the power of public good.  Today P2D2 reaches across the country and also educates both students and the public about the need for proper disposal of pharmaceuticals.  There are a lot of interesting facts on their website about what scientists are finding in our water supplies, why medicines are a risk to our water supplies, and why Americans need to be more aware of these risks, so be sure to take a look.