Sourcewater Protection Program

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.

About the Source Water Protection Program

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 a 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: Augmented Reality

What began as a backyard dream for Pennsylvania Rural Water Association’s (PRWA) Source Water Protection Specialist Kurt Wagner quickly became a reality after a little ingenuity and creative repurposing of materials. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Wagner began brainstorming ideas to spread the word about protecting our water sources. He landed on the idea of creating an augmented reality (AR) sandbox to help people understand mapping, topography, watersheds, natural resources, and more about source water protection.

“By leveraging modern technology, Kurt is impacting people in ways that water-cycle educational pamphlets and brochures just can’t,” said David Laughlin, National Rural Water Association Source Water Protection Program Manager. “Incorporating augmented reality into his public education toolkit engages people in a new, fun, and innovative way through tactile and visual reinforcement. As the Source Water Protection Program and Rural Water continue to evolve, utilizing technology like this is key to crafting a message that is impactful and resonant with the broadest audience.”