Friday, June 22, 2018

BLOG: A Joint Approach to Source Water Protection

by Tim McLelland, Manager, Hamilton to New Baltimore Groundwater Consortium

The Hamilton to New Baltimore Groundwater Consortium (Consortium), which was originally formed in 1967, currently consists of seven independent public and industrial water suppliers in southwest Ohio, including Greater Cincinnati Water Works; Southwest Regional Water District; City of Fairfield; MillerCoors, LLC; City of Hamilton; Butler County Water and Sewer; and Southwestern Ohio Water Company. The Consortium is a multi-jurisdictional collaboration of water suppliers to protect their source water from pollution and overuse through a single Source Water Protection Program (SWPP). In 1991, the Consortium began working on the development of a joint multi-jurisdictional, multiple wellfield Wellhead Protection Program (WHPP) known today as the SWPP. 

The water producing members of the Consortium operate wellfields throughout southwest Ohio. Together, Consortium members operate a total of 53 production wells supplying a combined average daily output of 62 million gallons of groundwater to over 315,000 people and hundreds of businesses and industries throughout the region. The members of the Consortium draw water from the Great Miami Buried Valley Aquifer, which extends from the headwaters of the Great Miami River north of Dayton to the confluence with the Ohio River near Cincinnati.   

The Consortium has pooled resources and employs me to oversee the overall SWP-related activities of the Consortium members and SWPP management strategies. Consortium members collectively fund all SWPP activities. 

Benefits of a Joint Approach
Developing and administering a joint SWPP has proven beneficial for all members through:
1. Cost efficiencies for the overall program; 
2. Ability to account for the inter-relationships between eight independent but closely located wellfields;
3. Coordinated regional network of early-warning monitoring wells, including the pooling of financial and technical resources which allows for a more cost-effective monitoring program;
4. Development of a consistent public education message about the importance of protecting the local drinking water supply with guidance and support from the Groundwater Foundation and Groundwater Guardian Program;
5. For six out of seven members, the ability to establish and administer protection ordinances outside of their home jurisdiction; and.
6. Ability to maintain a strong coordinated communication and networking relationships among Consortium members.

Potential Contaminant Sources
In 2007, we collected hydrogeologic information to update the original source water delineation from 1991. The updated delineation included SWP areas and maps depicting the new time-of-travel (TOT, the time it takes water to travel within the aquifer towards discharge points, including pumping wells, throughout the region) zones for each of the Consortium members. These zones are also considered to be the most vulnerable and sensitive areas. We have identified a one-year, five-year and 10-year TOT zones specific to our area. We also created a potential contaminant source (PSC) inventory for facilities in each of the three TOTs. PCSs include known releases, such as leaking underground storage tanks or potential sources of contamination, such as aboveground storage tanks or active rail lines. PCSs are not limited to manmade facilities - for example, naturally-occurring processes such as the dissolution of minerals in the aquifer may also be classified as PCSs. Just because a site is identified as a PCS does not mean it actually is polluting source water, only that there is a risk. By creating an inventory of these sites, we can determine where best to use our resources to minimize risk.

Effective Management and Controls
For a source control strategy to be truly effective, the strategy must reflect the types of potential pollution sources identified in the assessment. Our PCSI identified 704 potential pollution sources in 28 categories in the one, five, and 10-year TOTs. The most predominant sources were aboveground storage tanks, underground storage tanks, bulk chemical storage sites, automotive repair shops and small quantity generators.

Proper management of potential contaminant sources within SWPAs is critical to the success of any SWPP. We decided to implement a wide variety of available source control strategies and have worked carefully to balance the importance of an effective plan that meets the protection objectives of SWP while maintaining public support.

As we all know by now, SWP offers communities a great deal of flexibility in developing appropriate strategies for protecting groundwater resources while promoting the economic viability of the community. In general, we chose a combination of regulatory and non-regulatory management options for the SWPP Source Control Strategy Plan. The regulatory approach relies on local ordinances and enforcement to initiate changes in the SWPAs but also to protect property from contamination. On the other hand, the non-regulatory approaches rely on voluntary actions from the community and partnerships with organizations that have similar priorities. 

The Value of Education
Public education and the promotion of best management practices are the cornerstone of an effective SWPP and play a significant role in the SWPP during the implementation of the regulatory source control strategies. We have been actively working on groundwater public education for over 20 years with the assistance of a Public Education Committee. We are proud to be designated as a Groundwater Guardian for 20 consecutive years. We typically implement around 12 Result-Oriented Activities (ROA) each year. 

The most consistent and successful ROA to date is our children’s water festival, Waterfest. The Soil and Water Conservation District and Storm Water Districts assist with financial support and planning the event. Over the years we have had presenters from the Cincinnati Zoo bring endangered cheetahs, fishing cats, and various other cats. We have also had the Newport Aquarium present, Cool Critters who bring reptiles, and other organizations that bring rescued birds of prey. Many different watershed, wetland, and water quality presentations are given by local, state and federal agencies. Two years ago, a well driller installed a well at Waterfest. Since then, we have used the well as part of demonstrations to show kids how a well is purged, how we collect elevation data and sample groundwater quality. 
We are very fortunate to have Miami University Hamilton campus host our Waterfest each year, and has been an awesome partner for our event! We are very fortunate and thankful to our presenters and volunteers, and to have learned from other water festivals around the country to get fantastic ideas to make ours even better.

If you would like to learn more about the Groundwater Consortium, please find us online at, follow me on Twitter or like us on Facebook!   


Tim McLelland is the Manager of the Hamilton to New Baltimore Groundwater Consortium and the Team Leader for the Consortium's Groundwater Guardian team. Reach Tim at

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of The Groundwater Foundation, its board of directors, or individual members.

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