Source Water Protection

Source Water Protection Program

Source water is the foundation of any drinking water utility. Source water protection is the primary way to reduce the risk to a source from contamination or decline in production. In most circumstances source water protection cannot be achieved by the utility alone, instead it takes a coordinated effort of regulatory agencies, landowners and the public to achieve source water protection.

Droughts, contamination, climate change, growth demands, and fewer allocations of water rights all emphasize the need to be proactive about protecting drinking water sources' water quality and quantity. Source water protection is a proactive approach to protecting public health.

Source water protection also:

  • Reduces the need for additional treatment to meet water quality standards.
  • Helps the utility be prepared and reduce the impacts and costs of an emergency when they understand the risks to source quality from contamination, or reduced quantity due to climate change.
  • Helps sustainability when an alternate source of water may not be available or cost prohibitive.

Source water protection not only helps the utility identify its risk, it is also necessary to educate regulatory agency, permitting authorities and the community about the impacts their actions can have on drinking water source water quality or quantity.

History and Background

The 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments required all states to establish and implement a Source Water Assessment Program (SWAP) to:

  • Delineate (define) source water protection areas.
  • Inventory potential contaminant sites.
  • Determine how susceptible to contamination each drinking water source is.

SWAP Report 331-148 (PDF)

Source Water Protection Requirements

Washington State regulations (WAC 246-290 135) requires all Group A water systems to:

  • Develop and implement a Source Water Protection Program Source Water Protection Requirements 331-106 (PDF), which can be either:
    • Wellhead Protection Program (for groundwater sources), or
    • Watershed Control Program (for surface water and groundwater under the influence of surface water sources).

Some utilities may need both a Watershed Control Program and a Wellhead protection program to protect their sources.

Source Water Protection plans are required to be included in a Water System Plan or Small Water System Management Program.

Well Source Approval Guidance: For Group A Public Water Systems 331-674 (PDF). This guidance document intends to assist public water systems in gaining DOH source approval for adding a ground water well to a Group A public drinking water system.

Guidance, Tools, and Templates

Wellhead Protection Program guidance is provided in the Wellhead Protection Program Guidance Document 331-018 (PDF)

Wellhead Protection programs include:

  • Susceptibility assessments to determine how susceptible the source(s) are to contamination Ground Water Contamination Susceptibility Assessment Survey Form 331-274-F (Word).
  • Delineation of 6-month, 1-year, 5-year, and 10-year time of travel zones that show the land area contributing water (and potential contamination) to the source.
  • Inventory of potential contaminant sites, which must be updated every two years.
  • Documentation of notification letters to:
    • Owners and operators of potential contaminant sites.
    • Regulatory agencies.
    • Local emergency responders.
  • Emergency Planning Guide 331-211 (PDF) contains contingency plan that makes provisions in case of a drinking water emergency.

Watershed control programs include:

  • Watershed description and inventory, including location, hydrology, land ownership, and activities that could adversely affect drinking water quality.
  • Inventory of all potential surface water contamination sites and activities located within the watershed.
  • Watershed control measures (such as land ownership, relevant written agreements, monitoring and documentation of activities and water quality trends).
  • System operations, including emergency provisions.

If your watershed is forested and owned by others, consider reviewing the material presented at the Watershed Protection Workshop.

Source Water Protection Technical Assistance

The following free on-site technical assistance is available to help you prepare and implement your source water protection programs:

For question about your source water protection requirements contact your regional office planner

For questions about guidance and tools and funding, contact Nikki Guillot, 360-236-3114, Source Water Protection Program Manager.

Related Web Links

Source Water Protection Success Stories and Collaborations