Protection of Drinking Water
Related Mid-Atlantic Information
Is your community dependant upon a single source of drinking water? If so, you may be living in a sole source aquifer area.
Drinking water can come from ground water, streams, rivers, springs or lakes. Source Water Protection is a community-based approach to protecting these sources of drinking water from pollution. The 1996 Amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act required every state to assess its public sources of drinking water by:
- delineating the area supplying drinking water to each public water system;
- inventorying the potential sources of contamination in the area;
- determining the susceptibility of the public water system to the contaminants;
- providing the results of the assessment to the public.
States have also established Wellhead Protection Programs (as required by the Safe Drinking Water Act) to specifically protect groundwater supplies of drinking water. Tools to protect sources of drinking water can be:
- zoning ordinances,
- subdivision rules,
- hazardous waste disposal requirements and
- health regulations
- or nonregulatory:
- land acquisition,
- best management practices,
- educational outreach, and
- water quality and quantity monitoring
Since cleanup of contaminated drinking water sources can cost millions of dollars, preventing the contamination in the first place is the best approach. Senior citizens, student groups, municipalities, watershed organizations and public water supply systems can all take steps to help. This place-based and community-based pollution prevention approach:
- Restores the public's right and responsibility to protect their drinking water and their health through community-based pollution prevention efforts;
- Raises public confidence in their drinking water supply; and
- Reduces the costs of providing safe drinking water -- essentially contributing to a community's sustainability.
The Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments of 1996 require States to provide opportunities to the public to guide the decision-making process. Contact your state agency, community leaders, watershed groups, and/or local public water supply provider to find out more about opportunities for local involvement.
- Protecting Local Ground Water Supplies Through Wellhead Protection (helpful in starting up a program)
- Determining Wellhead Protection Area Boundaries –
An Introduction (PDF) (28 pp, 3.2MB, About PDF)
- Sample Wellhead Protection Ordinance Provisions
Based upon the results of a number of recent investigations, there appears to be ground and surface water contamination originating from numerous sets of diverse sources. While this has resulted in MCL (the highest level of a contaminant that EPA allows in drinking water) violations at some community water systems, there is concern that non-community water systems and private wells may be contaminated at unacceptable levels. The EPA mid-Atlantic ground water program and the EPA mid-Atlantic National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program have been and will continue to work together, focusing on developing targeting, investigation, and enforcement strategies designed to detect groundwater contamination in a proactive manner. In the last several years, EPA has used its authority under Section 1431 of the Safe Drinking Water Act (PDF) (19 pp, 623K, About PDF) to issue Emergency Orders to a number of sources of contamination to protect public health.