Water: Source Water Protection
EPA, State and Tribal Programs
On this Page
- Source water assessment and protection programs
- Wellhead protection program
- State ground water protection program
- Sole source aquifer protection program
- Watershed-based protection program
- EPA, other federal and non-governmental programs
- Tribal programs
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Activities to protect drinking water are carried out through a number of programs and partnerships at the federal and state level. This page summarizes state and EPA programs involved in source water protection, including watershed-based, wellhead, ground water, and tribal water protection programs. The information below provides links to publications, tools, and resources for source water protection available through state, EPA and other federal programs.
EPA publications and resources
- Source Water Assessment and Protection Programs Final Guidance (PDF) (160 pp, 486K)
Describes the elements of an EPA-approved state Source Water Assessment Program (SWAP), as well as EPA's recommendations for what should be included in a state Source Water Protection (SWP) Program. The document also provides an overview of how source water assessment and protection integrates with other Safe Drinking Water Act programs and efforts and how other EPA and other federal programs can assist states in developing and implementing assessment and protection programs, and vice versa.
- Office of Inspector General Report: Source Water Assessment and Protection Programs Show Initial Promise, But Obstacles Remain (PDF) (56 pp, 625K)
- Source Water Protection Training through the Drinking Water Academy
- Delineation tools
- Potential contaminant source inventory tools
- Susceptibility determination tools
- Protection tools
The Wellhead Protection Program (WHPP) is a pollution prevention and management program used to protect underground sources of drinking water. The national WHPP was established under section 1428 of the 1986 SDWA amendments. The law specified that certain program activities, such as delineation, contaminant source inventory, contingency planning and source management, be incorporated into state WHPPs, which are approved by EPA prior to implementation. All states have EPA-approved state WHPPs. Although section 1428 applies only to states, a number of tribes are implementing the program as well.
WHPPs provided the foundation for many of the state source water assessment programs required under the 1996 SDWA amendments. Most states also use the wellhead protection program as a foundation for assessing and protecting ground water systems. State WHPPs vary greatly. For example, some states require community water systems to develop management plans, while others rely on education and technical assistance to encourage voluntary action. Other states have mandatory requirements for wellhead protection at the local level. Guidance, publications and other resources are available on state source water web sites.
EPA publications and resources
- Citizen's Guide To Ground Water Protection (PDF) (34 pp, 2M)
- 1995-1997 Wellhead Biennial Report (PDF) (111 pp, 231K)
- Private Wells
- Septic Systems and Source Water Protection
- Locate Wellhead Protection Case Studies from Across the Country
- Ground Water Foundation Workshop Guide:
An Introduction to Drinking Water Source Assessment and Protection
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Home*A*Syst/Farm*A*Syst
Many states have also developed programs that are focused specifically on ground water protection. Several states developed formal Comprehensive State Ground Water Protection Programs (CSGWPP), which were designed as a management tool for states to use to integrate all programs that affect ground water quality, thus allowing better decisions to be made. Although most states are no longer pursuing formal approval of a CSGW pp, virtually all states are pursuing at least some of the individual elements necessary for comprehensive ground water protection. Within EPA, the source water protection program is working with the underground storage tank program to address potential threats to ground water posed by leaking tanks.
Publications and resources
- Protecting the Nation's Ground Water: EPA Strategy for the 1990s (PDF) (11 pp, 1M)
- State 305(b) reports
- National Water Quality Inventory, 1998 Report to Congress, Ground Water and Drinking Water Chapters
Report that is the primary vehicle for informing Congress and the public about general water quality conditions in the Untied States.
Watershed-Based Protection Program
The goal of source water protection is to protect the drinking water resource by protecting and preserving the environmental quality of the watershed above the intake (or the aquifer around the well). The assessment is the first step in the process to protect the resource. Once a watershed has been assessed to determine its current condition and the extent of the threats to the system, a watershed plan can be developed and implemented.
EPA's Office of Water has numerous programs that focus on watershed protection under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The Act includes programs such as the Nonpoint Source Program, National Estuary Program, the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Program, and the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program. Each of these programs encourage states to develop programs to promote watershed-based protection, and they have elements that support watershed-based planning and implementation. The federal programs are generally implemented at the state level.
- Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds
- Nonpoint Source Pollution
- National Estuary Program
- Total Maximum Daily Loads
- National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)
There is no single federal program for implementing source water protection plans and activities. However, many federal, tribal, regional, and local programs have tools and resources that can be used to focus on protecting drinking water. Source water protection can benefit, and benefit from, other EPA programs, other federal programs and non-governmental programs:
- Other programs can use source water assessments and identified protection areas to set priorities for ongoing prevention efforts.
- Identifying source water protection areas increases federal, state and local managers' awareness of other programs where participation might increase the protection of human health.
- Protecting sources of drinking water can help various federal programs, states, organizations and communities meet other environmental and social goals, such as green space conservation, stormwater planning, management of nonpoint source pollution and brownfields redevelopment.
- The benefits that EPA and other federal programs can provide to state and local source water assessment and protection efforts are potentially very large. These include information, technical and financial resources, and communication networks and enforcement authorities.
EPA program links
- EPA's Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water
- EPA's Office of Water
- Non-Water Program Links
- EPA program and regional offices
Other Federal Programs and Non-Governmenal Organizations
- Related links: Includes links to non-EPA organizations that are related to source water protection.
EPA is firmly committed to helping tribes to assess the rivers, lakes, springs and aquifers that serve as tribal public water supplies and to implement measures to protect against contamination of these water resources.
- Protecting Drinking Water: A Workbook for Tribes
The Water Education Foundation recently completed this national water quality publication using a grant from EPA. The Workbook includes background information on the importance of protecting source water from pollution and includes a step-by-step work plan for tribes interested in developing a plan for protecting their drinking water.
- Source water protection fact sheet and EPA regional contacts for tribes (PDF) (4 pp, 80K)
Provides more information on source water protection, how to get started, and funding available.
- Tribal drinking water programs and UIC program
- Other water pollution control funding sources
Provides information on drinking water, wastewater and watershed protection funding sources.
- Nonpoint source pollution control grants to tribes
Describes opportunities to fund projects to control polluted runoff.