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 local waterways.

Click here for a printable version of 10 ways to protect our watersheds (and your drinking water!)

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 PA DEP at the numbers listed here.

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.
  • Notify your local water utility of materials stored in aboveground storage tanks as required by State law.
  • Report any spills immediately to PA DEP at the numbers listed here. 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

    Get Involved

    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