This is Part 5 in Frannie's exploration of Wellhead Protection. Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 to learn about what it is, who protects the wellheads, and why it's important.
So far we’ve learned about the steps it takes to create a Wellhead Protection Plan, what some potential contaminant sources are, and a couple ways to educate water professionals and the public. But how did the idea of Wellhead Protection come about and why is it really important?
Way back in 1974, the Safe Water Drinking Act (SDWA) was signed into law to protect public health by making sure that local public water systems followed federal drinking water standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This meant that the local water systems were responsible for making sure their customers were provided with clean, safe water.
Local water systems quickly realized that it’s much easier and less expensive to provide their customers with clean water if the system receives clean groundwater from the very beginning. Clean water means fewer treatments and tests which means less money that the water system has to spend on making sure that their water complies with federal standards. Being proactive about water safety became, and still is, an important part of wellhead protection.
In 1986, the SDWA was amended to require states to develop Wellhead Protection Programs. States became responsible for helping communities form local boots-on-the-ground teams who protect public supply wells, determining the land area that affects drinking water sources, identifying and managing potential contaminant sources, and developing contingency plans for future water supply needs should the existing supply become contaminated or depleted.
Today, many communities are still using the program to create Wellhead Protection Plans. Some states use Source Water Assessment Programs to update plans that were developed in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Keeping our water clean now is making it easier and less expensive to have clean water in the future.