About Source Water Protection

Source water protection is a voluntary effort a community can undertake to prevent contamination of the source water that supplies its public water system (PWS). Preventing contaminants from entering a public water system supply greatly benefits the community by minimizing the problems that can occur from contaminants in the water supply, such as increased health risks to the public, expanded drinking water monitoring requirements, additional water treatment requirements, and expensive environmental cleanup activities.

Source Water Protection Plan

Source water protection may involve creating a source water (or drinking water) protection plan that outlines actions the community will take to protect drinking water sources.

A water system can gain official recognition for its source water protection plan by pursuing state certification through the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). State certified plans include the following components:

The state certification covers a 5-year period, after which recertification may be pursued. Certified plans also meet the guidelines developed in the American Water Works Association (AWWA) G300 Source Water Protection Standard.

In addition to the obvious benefit of having a plan to protect drinking water sources, systems with certified source water protection plans are granted additional points when applying for DEQ-administered drinking water grants and loans. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Program requires a system to have a current certified source water protection plan to receive financial assistance within Idaho.

Contingency Plans (Emergency Response)

Water utilities are responsible for ensuring that our state’s water systems are protected against a variety of threats (natural and man-made) that could affect their ability to supply safe drinking water.

Contingency plans (emergency response plans) outline the steps a water system will follow if a primary source of drinking water becomes contaminated or the flow of water is disrupted. The purpose of a contingency plan is to:

Community water systems that serve populations greater than 3,300 are required to have a contingency plan on hand designed to ensure system security, minimize property damage, and lessen liability. DEQ urges all public drinking water systems, regardless of size of population served, to adopt a contingency plan. Once completed, the plan should be kept on hand for any unforeseen emergency.

Source Water Protection Planning Application

The online source water protection planning application is a tool that water systems and communities can use to assist in developing a source water protection plan and contingency plan. The application extracts information from the source water assessment report completed by DEQ and brings it into the draft plan. The source water assessment provides information on where the drinking water originates (delineation), what the potential contaminant threats are to the water source, and how susceptible the water source is to contamination. The information from the source water assessment is the basis from which the PWS can develop a protection plan.

In addition to the information in the source water assessment report, the application pulls information from the Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS), and other DEQ databases. The application assists in identifying options for protection activities that address specific contaminant threats through information in DEQ’s Source Water Protection Activity Guide.

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