Source Water Assessment and Protection Program

Storm drain stencil

Also known as "Wellhead Protection" and "Drinking Water Source Protection," Ohio's Source Water Assessment and Protection (SWAP) program assists communities with protecting their sources of drinking water (streams, lakes and aquifers) from contamination. The SWAP program addresses over 4,500 public water systems in Ohio and does not address private residential water systems.

Although Ohio's public water systems treat their drinking water to meet health-based standards, treatment is expensive and may not address every kind of contaminant. By taking steps to avoid chemical spills in the areas surrounding a wellfield or upstream from a surface water intake, a community can help reduce the costs of their water and better ensure a safe and high-quality supply of drinking water.


Endorsed Drinking Water Source Protection Plans

For municipal systems, this involves developing a written plan that addresses the concerns to the source water. Non-municipal systems complete a checklist that is tailored to the types of potential contaminant sources identified in the system's protection area.


What is Drinking Water Source Protection?

For each public water system, Drinking Water Source Protection involves two phases: ASSESSMENT and PROTECTION.

Example SWAP areaASSESSMENT is determining the area around the public water system's well(s) or intake(s) that will be the focus of protection (delineation), and then listing all of the facilities or activities within that area that could potentially release chemicals that would contaminate the source water (inventory). Based on the delineation, inventory, and the local geology, the likelihood of the source water becoming contaminated is determined (susceptibility analysis). Since 2001, Ohio EPA staff have provided public water systems with assessments; however, some public water systems prefer to hire a hydrogeologic consulting firm.

Drinking Water Source Protection road signPROTECTION refers to the activities undertaken by the public water supplier and other interested parties to protect the SWAP area. For this purpose, Ohio EPA strongly encourages municipal public water suppliers to form a local planning team and develop a "Drinking Water Source Protection Plan". See the next tab - CREATING A PROTECTION PLAN - for detailed information on this.

 

 

 


The federal Safe Drinking Water Act amendments of 1986 established the Wellhead Protection Program, which required states to administer a source water protection program for their systems using ground water. In 1992 Ohio's Wellhead Protection Program was approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). Administered by Ohio EPA, the program provided guidance and technical assistance to public water systems, who were encouraged to complete assessments and protection plans using their own resources. Ohio EPA staff reviewed the assessments and formally endorsed them, when complete.

In 1996, the Safe Drinking Water Act was amended again. Section 1453 was added, providing states with federal funding to complete source water assessments for their public water systems. At that time, the program was extended to include surface water systems and was renamed "Source Water Protection". Also, an additional piece of information was required in an assessment - a Susceptibility Analysis. It is the intent of Congress that public water systems use the information in their source water assessment to develop a drinking water source protection plan.

Ohio EPA convened a Source Water Advisory Group to develop Ohio's Source Water Assessment Program, which was approved by USEPA in 1999. In Ohio, Ohio EPA's Division of Drinking and Ground Waters administers the program.

Source Water Protection ("SWAP") and Wellhead Protection ("WHP") are both national programs designed to help protect our nation’s drinking water. They have the same goal and the same methods, but originated at different times historically, with different scopes. The Wellhead Protection Program was created by the 1986 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act, and focused exclusively on ground water systems. Ten years later, Congress recognized that the program was faltering due to lack of funding. They passed the 1996 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act, which extended source water protection to surface water systems, and provided for funding.

In Ohio, the WHP program is merged into the Ohio SWAP Program, which is administered by Ohio EPA. The terms WHP and SWAP are used interchangeably. (In some other states, the two programs are kept separate due to state-specific administrative or legal issues.) In Ohio, the differences between the two programs are mostly of historical interest, and are summarized below.

Scope: WHP focused exclusively on ground water systems, and prioritized large community systems. SWAP extended the program to ALL public water systems, including surface water systems and non-community systems.

Work focus: The national WHP Program provided standards for public water systems to conduct assessments (delineation and inventory of a protection area) and develop a local protection plan . The national SWAP Program exclusively addressed assessments.

Funding: National funding was not provided for WHP. For SWAP, a one-time federal grant was awarded for conducting assessments to each state with a U.S. EPA-approved SWAP Program. (Ohio’s SWAP Program was approved in November, 1999).

Susceptibility Analysis: The national WHP Program did not require susceptibility analyses as part of assessment activities. This requirement was added to the SWAP Program. (In 2001-2003, Ohio EPA completed susceptibility analyses for all public water systems that had already completed their own assessments under WHP.)

Public water systems with an endorsed "Wellhead Protection Plan" are considered to meet all the guidelines for a "Protection Plan" under SWAP.

Public water systems (PWS) are regulated by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Division of Drinking and Ground Waters (Ohio EPA DDAGW).  A public water system is defined as a system that provides water for human consumption to at least 15 service connections or serves an average of at least 25 people for at least 60 days each year.  This includes water used for drinking, food preparation, bathing, showering, tooth brushing and dishwashing. Public water systems range in size from large municipalities to small churches and restaurants that rely on a single well. There are three types of public water systems:

City of Lima's Waste Water Treatment PlantCommunity water systems serve at least 15 service connections used by year-round residents or regularly serve at least 25 year-round residents.  Examples include cities, mobile home parks and nursing homes.
 
SchoolsNontransient noncommunity systems serve at least 25 of the same persons over six months per year. Examples include schools, hospitals and factories.
 
Transient noncommunity systems serve at least 25 different persons over 60 days per year.  Examples include campgrounds, restaurants and gas stations.  In addition, drinking water systems associated with agricultural migrant labor camps,  as defined by the Ohio Department of Agriculture, are regulated even though they may not meet the minimum number of people or service connections.


Public water systems use either a ground water source or a surface water source, including ground water under the direct influence of surface water. In Ohio, more than 4,500 public water systems serve approximately 11.1 million people daily.

Private water systems are regulated by the Ohio Department of Health. Private water systems are households and small businesses that serve fewer than 25 people per day 60 days out of the year, and are thus not public water systems. Examples include small bed and breakfasts, small daycares and small churches.

Yes, there are. Click on the table below to for a listing of the activities that are prohibited or restricted in drinking water source protection areas:


Drinking Water Source Assessment Reports can be accessed online by becoming a registered user on our Secure Web Site.

Ohio EPA completes assessment reports only for those systems that actually pump water from an aquifer or a surface water body. Any public water system that pumps its own water and then sells it to other public water systems should make copies of the Assessment Report available to the purchasing systems.

A drinking water source protection plan is a locally designed and implemented plan to protect the source of drinking water from contamination at the source. The focus and scope of a protection plan is dependent on the size and type of water system, as discussed below:

Municipal public water systems (serving a political jurisdiction) and investor-owned water companies using ground water: A typical plan addresses (1) educating residents and decision-makers about protecting the source water; (2) including source water concerns in the system's contingency plan; and (3) strategies to reduce the risk posed by specific potential contaminant sources. Monitoring of the raw water may be an additional element. The protection plan may be implemented as a completely voluntary effort, or through a local ordinance that would give the jurisdiction the ability to enforce certain measures.

Available Protection Planning Guides for Municipal Ground Water Systems
Non-municipal public water systems (serving mobile home parks, nursing homes, schools, factories, and small businesses) using ground water: When Ohio EPA staff complete a system's assessment report, they attach a checklist that is tailored to the types of potential contaminant sources identified in the system's protection area. The owner/operator is asked to check off strategies that they intend to implement or are already implementing, and return the checklist to Ohio EPA. This checklist then becomes the system's protection plan. Some non-municipal systems may want to develop a more comprehensive protection plan. If so, the system may also use the materials developed for municipal systems.

Public Water Systems using surface water: Most surface water systems serve a large population, and the protection areas are typically many square miles in extent. Ohio EPA currently is developing guidance for these systems on how to develop a drinking water source protection plan. Public water system operators are encouraged to strongly support any watershed planning organizations that are active in the watershed upstream from the water plant's intake.

Available Protection Planning Guide for Surface Water Systems

storm drain stencil telling people not to dumpContact the public water system superintendent and ask if a Drinking Water Source Protection Plan is in place or being developed. If not, you may want to offer your assistance in organizing a protection team in your community. Much of the effort involved is organizational, and anyone with energy and organizational skills can be a valuable resource. A good protection plan will make full use of existing agencies, regulations, and volunteer groups to carry out the protective strategies that are chosen.

Drinking water sources are vulnerable to contamination that can cause a community significant expense and threaten public health. Water is a shared resource, and individuals, citizen groups, and local communities can participate in many activities to help protect their drinking water sources. U.S. EPA provides information on how to learn about source water protection in your area, things you can do to protect your drinking water and steps you can take in source water planning at the community level.


Creating a Drinking Water Source Protection Plan

For anyone interested in developing a local drinking water source protection plan for their municipal public water system, the first step is to review the appropriate Ohio EPA guidance:


Drinking Water Source Protection Plan Template (for systems using ground water and serving fewer than 5,000 people) 


Example Protection Plans

Ground Water Systems:

Surface Water Systems:


The first step in developing a local source water protection plan is to discuss the idea with the public water supply operator or superintendent and organize a planning committee.

To ensure widespread acceptance and commitment to the protection plan, develop the plan with a group of people representing the diverse viewpoints and local expertise of the community. Participants should include individuals who will play a role in implementing protective strategies, as well as those most likely to be affected by any decisions made (generally people who live, work, or own businesses in the protection area). At a minimum, the team should include local decision makers and water supply staff members and preferably someone with knowledge of emergency response and/or environmental compliance.

In the end, the most successful drinking water protection efforts are those publicized early and often, and presented as a community source of pride. These successes can be traced back to the protection team.


For some communities, the next step is to have the Village or City Council discuss and pass a RESOLUTION. This assures the planning group that the local leadership will support their efforts.


SWAP reportThe protection team should review the public water system's Drinking Water Source Assesment report and update the potential contaminant source inventory. Most of the assessment reports were originally written in 2002-2003. If the report has not been updated recently, there may be a number of "potential contaminant sources" that are no longer operating within the drinking water source protection area, or new facilities that have located there. Ohio EPA generally will not endorse a protection plan for a drinking water source protection area that has not recently been re-inventoried.

 

 

 


Developing Protective Strategies

Spill containment around an above ground storage tankThe planning group should prioritize the threats to the source water and decide what types of efforts can be implemented to reduce threats. For endorsement by Ohio EPA, the protection plan must discuss the following types of protective strategies:

    • Public Outreach/Education
    • Source Control Strategies
    • Contingency Planning for Source Water Contamination
    • Source Water Monitoring

PUBLIC OUTREACH/EDUCATION

Kid's learning about ground water at a local festivalA good education and outreach strategy can have a lot to do with the success of a community's drinking water protection goals. A resident or business owner who understands the importance of protecting their drinking water resources will be more inclined to implement sound management practices, vote for funding to protect the community's drinking water resources, or accept the need to implement zoning within the protection area.

Educational programs can be directed at business owners, households, school children, civic organizations, workers, or the community at large, depending on which type of potential contaminant source is targeted. Some of the more commonly used educational tools include:


SOURCE CONTROL STRATEGIES

Salt storageSource Control Strategies are actions or techniques that reduce the risk of source water contamination from specific sources within the protection area. A few of the commonly identified strategies include:

  • source prohibition or restrictions (certain activitis cannot occur within a designated area)
  • design standards (such as berms or secondary containment systems)
  • specific operating standards (such as periodic inspections, testing, maintenance, or reporting requirements)

Most large facilities handling chemicals are regulated by Ohio EPA and other agencies. These facilities may have a Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasures (SPCC) Plan and/or a storm water management plan, in addition to various permits.Most of these facilities arerequired to report periodically to the agencies regulating them, and their reports are usually public information. The planninggroup should attempt to learn as much as possible about the facilities within the protection area so they can focus their efforts where there are inadequacies.

Environmental regulations that provide special requirements for facilities located within source water protection areas currently are in effect for certain types of landfills, wastewater treatment plants and manure storage facilities, underground storage tanks, concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO's), browfield sites, and agricultural fields being treated with wastewater.


CONTINGENCY PLANNING for Source Water Contamination

Wastewater Treatment PlantMost public water systems have a contingency plan for emergencies such as power failures and floods, but may provide little instruction for how to react if there is a spill of chemicals within the source water protection area. As part of source water protection planning, the contingency plan should be edited - if necessary - to include such instruction for both short-term and long-term contamination ofthe source water.




SOURCE WATER MONITORING

Ground Water samplingTo be endorsed by Ohio EPA, the protection plan must evaluate the need for a source water monitoring plan. The primary reasons to monitor the source water before it reaches the treatment plant are:

  • Early warning of a contaminant plume
  • Tracking raw water quality trends over time
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of selected protective activities

The need for additional monitoring is greater when:

  • The source water is highly susceptible to contamination
  • The source water is already contaminated
  • Existing source water quality data is insufficient
  • There are potential sources of contamination in the protection area that pose a significant risk to source water

Guidance Documents for Source Water Monitoring:


Developing Local Ordinances

Some communities choose to enforce their plan through adoption of a source water protection ordinance that places some restrictions on activities that may occur within the source water protection area. Ohio EPA recommends that, at a minimum, responsibility for periodic updates of the plan be incorporated into the job description or one or more municipal employees.

Chargrin River Watershed Partners Chagrin River Watershed Partners Chagrin River Watershed Partners Model OrdinancesOrdinances can be a powerful option for addressing a large number of contaminant sources, and can provide the authority for ongoing enforcement at the local level. Zoning channels future development away from the wellfield or watershed to a less sensitive area. If the protection area is undeveloped and not zoned, the community can zone it a "natural resource protection area." If the protection area is developed and not zoned, the community may introduce zoning, with recognition that existing development needs to be grandfathered. If the protection area is already zoned, "overlay zoning" may be introduced.

Examples of model ordinances for Source Water Protection can be found on U.S. EPA's web site: http://water.epa.gov/polwaste/nps/ordinance_index.cfm


Example Ordinances

The following is a list of ordinances that have been enacted by municipalities. For more information, please contact the public water system.


Submitting the Drinking Water Source Protection Plan to Ohio EPA

The Village of Versailles receiving a certificateThe plan should be submitted to Council for their approval and then submitted to Ohio EPA's Source Water Assessment and Protection Program for endorsement. With an endorsed protection plan, the community can receive higher priority for Ohio EPA's low-interest infrastructure loans.

Drinking Water Source Assessments, Maps and GIS Data

Green CountyReports:  Drinking Water Source Assessment Reports are available via a password-protected web site. This secure site contains lists of public water systems by county and their reports, if available. The reports address each of the more than 4,500 public water systems in Ohio by determining an area that contributes water to the well, wellfield or surface water intake; identifying the potential contaminant sources in that area; and determining the susceptibility of the source water to contamination.

Maps:  Large scale county maps are also available for download for some of the counties. These maps are in PDF format and produced at a size of 24 inches wide by 36 inches high. The resolution is sufficient to zoom into the map to see the areal extents of Drinking Water Source Protection Areas and the locations of the Public Water System Wells and Surface Water Intakes. New maps will become available as time permits.

GIS:  State-wide GIS data layers of the Public Water System wells and intakes, and Drinking Water Source Protection Areas for both ground water and surface water systems are now available to download.

(Not Registered?? Click here for the registration form)


Data Requests for Drinking Water Source Protection Areas

To request information or maps regarding locations of drinking water source protection areas or public water systems, please contact the Source Water Protection staff with the details of your request. For your request to be processed in a timely manner, you must include the following information: name, organization, address, phone number, email address, purpose of the request, and a map locating the site or area of interest. E-mail is the preferred method for submitting a request (whp@epa.ohio.gov), but you may fax (614-644-2909) or mail the request to the attention of Source Water Protection staff. Turn around time is typically less than one week.


Sole Source Aquifers in Ohio

Sole Source Aquifer map

U.S. EPA defines a Sole Source Aquifer (SSA) as an aquifer that supplies at least 50 percent of the drinking water consumed in the area overlying the aquifer. These areas may have no alternative drinking water source(s) that could physically, legally and economically supply all those who depend on the aquifer for drinking water.

The Sole Source Aquifer designation protects an area's ground water resource by requiring U.S. EPA to review certain proposed projects within the designated area. All proposed projects receiving federal funds are subject to review to ensure that they do not endanger the water source.

For more information on Sole Source Aquifers, including GIS data, visit http://water.epa.gov/infrastructure/drinkingwater/sourcewater/protection/solesourceaquifer.cfm.



GREATER MIAMI SOLE SOURCE AQUIFER

ALLEN COUNTY SOLE SOURCE AQUIFER

CATAWBA ISLAND SOLE SOURCE AQUIFER

PLEASANT CITY SOLE SOURCE AQUIFER


Public Drinking Water Supply Beneficial Use

Sampling in a riverIn general, the Division of Drinking and Ground Waters administers Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) programs and the Division of Surface Waters administers the Clean Water Act (CWA) programs.  However, the two divisions share common goals with regard to assessing and protecting sources of drinking water. They have been collaborating since 2002  to strengthen the connection between the CWA and SDWA with more robust assessments of Ohio source waters. 

Beneficial Use and the Clean Water Act

DamUnder the Clean Water Act, all of Ohio’s surface waters are designated with specific beneficial uses.  How is the water used? Do people swim or boat in it (recreational use)?  Do they drink it (public drinking water supply use)? Do they eat the fish they catch (fish consumption)?  Do you expect to see aquatic life such as certain bugs and fish (aquatic life use)? Ohio applies the public drinking water supply (PDWS) beneficial use to all waters within 500 yards of an active public drinking water supply intake and all publicly owned lakes.

For each type of beneficial use there is standard for how clean the water needs to be to support each beneficial use (water quality standards and criteria).  Tthese standards are used as a "measuring stick" to indicate if waters are meeting or not meeting expectations.  Ohio EPA has developed a set of water quality criteria for protection of the public drinking water supply beneficial use and applies the criteria to water quality data collected in the raw source water.

If the waters do not meet expectations, it is considered impaired for that beneficial use. The Ohio EPA must then take action to meet water quality standards.  This action typically involves development of a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL)

Publications and Fact Sheets

Maps

Contacts

 

Guidance Documents, Fact Sheets, Educational Materials, and Publications

(If you can't find what you are looking for here, search our Online Publications Catalog)

Annual Drinking Water Source Protection Updates (SWAP Newsletter)

Guidance Documents - Wellhead Protection Program

(To be used by public water systems or their consultants when determining a protection area or inventorying potential contaminant sources)

Guidance Documents - Source Water Protection Program

(To be used internally by Ohio EPA when determining a protection area or inventorying potential contaminant sources)

Guidance Documents - Protection Planning

Technical Reports

Fact Sheets-General

Fact Sheets-Technical

Educational Materials

Accessing GIS Data, Maps, and Drinking Water Source Assessment Reports


VIDEO
Source Water Protection helps communities lower their risk of drinking water contamination


Source Water Protection Contacts

For more information about protecting drinking water resources in Ohio or assistance with developing a Drinking Water Source Protection Plan for ground water systems, contact SWAP staff at the appropriate district office listed below. 

  • NORTHWEST DISTRICT OFFICE: Ken Brock
    (419) 373-3143

If you are unsure of whom to call, or just have some general questions about drinking water protection, please call (614) 644-2752 and ask to speak with one of the Drinking Water Source Protection staff. Or, send an email to whp@epa.ohio.gov.