Protect your source
Protecting and preventing your community’s water source from pollution reduces risks to public health, utility treatment costs and service disruptions. So what can you do to reduce pollution?
Go Conduct source water assessments
Regardless of where your drinking water comes from, and whether it is produced or purchased, source water assessments provide communities with information needed to protect drinking water sources. A source water assessment is extremely valuable to determine risks and possible protective measures. Following are some typical steps, as outlined by the Environmental Protection Agency, in producing a source water assessment:
Delineate the source water protection area. Create a boundary line based on where your water utility draws its drinking water supplies. For example, the delineated area may be a certain radius surrounding the location of your drinking water wells or intake pipes.
Inventory sources of contamination. The contaminant source inventory identifies documented and potential contaminant sources or activities of concern.
Determine the susceptibility of your water supply to contaminants within the source water protection area. Assess the nature, severity and likelihood of risks. For example, tanks storing harmful materials within your source water protection area would likely be considered a susceptibility.
Inform businesses and residents about the inventory and the susceptibility of your system. Notifying businesses and households they are in a source water protection area and identifying local support for voluntary source water protection is a great way to build trust and partnership with your community. You want an informed public to prevent contamination.
Implement management or policy measures to prevent, reduce or eliminate risks to your drinking water supply. Management options might involve ordinance provisions prohibiting or restricting land uses that could release contaminants to critical source water areas—including sensitive groundwater recharge areas. Examples include, prohibiting gas stations in source water protection areas or restricting the application of pesticides.
Develop contingency strategies that address water supply contamination or service interruption emergencies. This may involve an assessment of available water storage and/or an identification of alternative sources of water.
Implement an industrial pretreatment program. Pollutants in industrial wastewater may compromise municipal treatment plant processes or contaminate drinking water. To protect municipal treatment plants and the environment, a pretreatment program—as part of the U.S. Clean Water Act’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)—requires industrial dischargers to use treatment techniques and management practices to reduce or eliminate the discharge of harmful pollutants to sanitary sewers.
Go Support regulatory compliance + utility staff
You and your water system have a responsibility to the public to provide clean and safe drinking water to homes and businesses. Customers may take their water for granted… until they don’t have it. If service is interrupted or if the water becomes unsafe, you can be assured you will hear about it from your constituents.
Water utility systems are subject to Federal and State regulations. These regulations require that water delivered to customers meets established safety standards and that water quality test results are reported to the State. Violations can result in fines of up to $25,000 per day. Another regulatory requirement is Consumer Confidence Reports about local water quality and any violations or identified contamination. These annual reports must be distributed annually to homes and businesses in your utility service area. As an elected official, you must ensure that budgets include sufficient funding for operating and maintaining the system, as well as for regularly testing water quality and meeting regulatory requirements.