Planning for the Future with a Source Water Protection Program

Planning for the Future with a Source Water Protection Program

Originally featured in Kentucky Rural Water Association’s magazine Waterproof.

By Matt Glass, Source Water Specialist

Drinking water sources are subject to a variety of contaminants and Source Water Protection (SWP) can be considered the front-line defense against the impacts of the pollutants. The fact that water utilities spend a significant amount of money each year on protection-related measures shows our industry knows the value of SWP to maintaining optimal water supply quality.

The benefits of Source Water Protection Program include reduced water treatment costs, increased public health protection, improved environmental conditions, and generally better relations with customers and stakeholders. By dedicating resources to SWP, utilities end up saving money that might otherwise be spent on water treatment or alternative supplies.

Source Water Protection provides utilities with a means to combat the uncertain impacts of unregulated microbiological and chemical contaminants. Pollution prevention will always be more appealing than treating contaminated water supplies and SWP efforts provide a path to future sustainability. Contaminant sources come in a wade range; many people in our industry re increasingly aware of the problems posed by Poly- and Perfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) and the incredibly high cost associated with remediation. We all know how excess nutrients, sediments, and chemicals  can become part of runoff and negatively affect the quality of our drinking water supply, so for our utilities it is just logical to prevent the introduction of these potential contaminants into the source water before they can reach the treatment plant.

Water utilities have a good opportunity right now to partner with the agricultural community to help protect source water supplies. Under the new Farm Bill, ten percent of spending on Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) program is to be directed to source water protection, providing at least $4 billion over the next ten years. These programs assist farmers and forest landowners in protecting or enhancing the environment. The NRCS administers most of USDA’s conservation programs and working with the agency is vital f utilities wish to address nonpoint sources such as nutrients, sediment, and chemicals.

As the Source Water Specialist for the Kentucky Rural Water Association I can provide technical assistance to our member utilities who wish to establish or update their source water protection program. There is no better time than right now to start protection efforts that will ensure your source water quality in the future.