SOURCE WATER PROTECTION
American Water is committed to providing high quality, reliable water service to our customers. Collaborative efforts to protect sources of water used as drinking water supplies are an important part of maintaining high quality water, and we are working to further these efforts in the communities we serve.
Source water is water that is used as a supply for public drinking water and private wells. It can take the form of surface water, which flows on top of the land surface within a watershed, or groundwater, which is stored in underground aquifers in the pore spaces of soil and rock. The amount and quality of source water depends on local watershed conditions such as climate, topography, and land use.
Source water protection involves identifying potential risks that could affect the water supply and seeking to reduce those risks when possible to maintain quality of the supply source. Potential risks to source water include contamination from materials that may be naturally occurring or are used, stored, and transported throughout the watershed. The types of materials vary from one location to another but typically can be associated with certain land uses such as agricultural, industrial, or residential.
There are several ways to manage risks to water supplies, including regulations for material handling and land use practices to reduce contaminant impacts, and outreach to educate people about how their actions can affect source water supplies. This requires a community effort from utilities, businesses, residents, government agencies and organizations to share information and take action to protect our shared resources.
Across the US, many waterways contribute to sources of community water supplies, so it’s important that we all take steps to protect and improve this precious natural resource. Follow the links below to learn more about source water protection and how individuals and businesses can help reduce impacts to local waterways.
- ASDWA Source Water
- AWWA Source Water Protection Resource Community
- Source Water Collaborative
- USEPA Pollution Prevention
- USEPA Source Water Protection
- USEPA How’s My Waterway?
- USGS Current Water Data for the Nation
Source water protection is a community activity -- there are things that everyone can do to protect and improve drinking water sources. Below are some tips for how residents and businesses can help reduce impacts to their local waterways.
Residential Tips for Protecting Source Water
Any materials that are released to the ground or poured down the drain or toilet can flow to and affect waterways. Stormwater picks up debris, dirt and other pollutants as it flows over the land surface. These materials are then discharged untreated into the water bodies we use for swimming, fishing and drinking water. Excess stormwater flow can also overwhelm sewer systems, causing combined sewer overflows.
Here are some actions that residents can take to help keep these materials out of waterways:
- Use and dispose of harmful materials properly. Take hazardous household wastes such as cleaners, oils, paints and batteries to proper waste collection sites. Don’t dump them down your sink, toilet or storm drains.
- Dispose of pharmaceuticals by taking them to collection sites, where available. Don’t flush them down the toilet!
- Check for leaks from heating fuel tanks and automobiles. Use pads to catch accidental leaks and clean up any spills with dry absorbent products instead of washing them with water to the storm drains.
- Limit the use of fertilizers and pesticides on your lawn or consider natural alternatives. Consider landscaping with native plants and use mulch on bare ground and slopes to prevent erosion and runoff.
- Clean up litter, pet waste and lawn clippings from your yard that may end up in the storm drains when it rains.
- Fuel your boat cautiously and keep the engine well-tuned to prevent oil leaks.
- Properly abandon and seal old wells on your property. Do not use them for disposal pits!
- Inspect your septic system and have it serviced regularly – usually every 3-5 years.
- Report any spills, illegal dumping or suspicious activity to local or state authorities.
Business Tips for Protecting Source Water
Industrial and commercial businesses have an important role in protecting water supplies through best management practices (BMPs) for storing, handling, and reporting information about materials at their facilities.
Here are some actions that businesses can take to do their part:
- Ensure that you follow all applicable regulations related to waste management, including wastewater and stormwater discharges. Keep permits up to date and comply with permit requirements.
- Follow industry best practices for proper materials management including the responsible selection, use, storage, transport and disposal of products.
- Develop and maintain pollution prevention and spill response and prevention plans that identify measures to prevent releases to waterways.
- Train employees on proper material handling and spill response procedures.
- Secure storage areas against unauthorized entry. Inspect aboveground and underground storage tanks to ensure they are in good working order.
- Investigate the routing of floor drains. It is typically recommended that floor drains connected to sanitary or storm water sewers in the vicinity of hazardous material be capped. Drains that discharge directly to storm or surface waters can pose a threat to nearby water bodies.
- Inspect vehicles regularly to be sure they aren’t leaking fluids like oil or antifreeze.
- Limit the use of fertilizers and pesticides on the property or consider natural alternatives. Cover bare ground and slopes to prevent erosion and runoff.
- Report any spills immediately to proper authorities. Report any suspicious activities to local law enforcement.
For more information about BMPs, refer to EPA’s National Menu of Stormwater Best Management Practices at https://www.epa.gov/npdes/national-menu-best-management-practices-bmps-stormwater#edu
Be a Source Water Champion! Look for local opportunities to participate in activities to clean up waterways and protect streams from soil erosion and pollution. Below are some examples:
- Join a local stream cleanup event.
- Find a watershed or wellhead protection group in your community and volunteer to help.
- Participate in a collection day for household materials and pharmaceuticals.
- Organize a storm drain stenciling project to remind people that storm drains dump directly into local water bodies.
- Support local land use policies that are protective of waterway corridors.
- Raise public awareness through educational programs.