Protecting public health is the top priority in every water and wastewater system in America. Since 1990, the National Rural Water Association and State Rural Water Associations have assisted systems in identifying, controlling, and eliminating pollutants from the nation’s water resources. The NRWA Source Water Protection Program is built around small water utilities, local businesses, agriculture, government, and other groups working together to develop and implement strategies to protect their drinking water sources. It is voluntary, grassroots planning effort that builds local responsibility and creates more sustainable communities.
This cooperative program has made significant progress in reducing point source pollution from industrial, agricultural, municipal, and even household sources. The program has also made progress in the challenging area of nonpoint source pollution. Nonpoint source pollution results from activities over large areas, such as runoff from agriculture, industry, and transportation that flows into water sources. In addition to protecting the health and welfare of U.S. communities, sourcewater protection efforts save consumers money. The United States Department of Agriculture estimates damages from soil erosion costs between $2 billion to $8 billion per year (Ribaudo, 1989). The United States Environmental Protection Agency estimates that public water systems spend an additional $200 million per year just to remove excess nitrate to meet federal drinking water standards (Ribaudo, 1999).
Success Story: Outdoor Classroom
Students watched intently as heavy rain sent soil, trash, fertilizer and chemical run-off streaming into the lake that supplies their town with water.
“Ewwww, I’m not going to drink that,” a young girl said.
The contamination is simulated. Food coloring stands in for run-off and chemicals, a spray bottle supplying the rain. Source water protection specialists from the Oklahoma Rural Water Association presented the run-off model as part of an outdoor classroom event at the Stephens County Fair and Expo Center.
“It was a great experience because the kids got very involved,” said Jeannie Anthony, an ORWA source water protection specialist. “They really respond to what they see happening in the model.”