Source Water Protection

Source water is untreated water from streams, rivers, lakes, springs, or underground aquifers, which is used to supply public drinking water and private wells.

Source Water Protection is an effort to prevent contaminants from entering public drinking water sources. The Source Water Protection Program is administered through the Bureau of Safe Drinking Water at the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection (NDEP).

The program coordinates source water protection activities at the local, state, and federal levels, and encourages community-based protection and preventive management strategies to ensure all public drinking water resources are kept safe from future contamination.

Source Water Protection is built upon Source Water Assessments conducted by NDEP's Bureau of Safe Drinking Water for all public drinking water sources in Nevada as part of the Safe Drinking Water Act amendments of 1996, the Integrated Source Water Protection Program (formerly Wellhead Protection Program) also within the Bureau of Safe Drinking Water, and other data and tools available at NDEP.

Three primary parts to Nevada's Source Water Protection Program


  • Protection of Groundwater Sources
  • Protection of Surface Water Intakes
  • Coordination With Existing Protection Programs

Source Water Protection Activities Summary Table

Protection of Ground Water Sources

Ground water sources are public water supply wells and springs. The Bureau of Safe Drinking Water administers the Integrated Source Water Protection Program and coordinates closely with other related federal, state, and local programs to encourage Nevada’s communities to develop and implement local plans that address preventable contamination of public drinking water wells and springs.

Nevada Source Water Protection Plans


The Integrated Source Water Protection Program is designed to protect public water supply wells and springs. Assistance is available to communities and water systems to develop Community or Individual Source Water Protection Plans for their public water supply wells and springs. Ground water "capture zones" for the well (called a source water or wellhead protection area) is designated on planning maps and strategies are developed and implemented for managing potential contamination sources within the protection area. Management activities typically include:

  • Education / outreach to businesses, and the general public about where their community drinking water comes from and how to protect it;
  • Coordinated land use planning;
  • Physical protection (fence) around wellheads and well houses;
  • Inventory and plugging of unused wells which can act as conduits between surface pollution and groundwater; and
  • Implementation of best management practices to manage potential and existing sources of contamination.

For more information see: NDEP's Ground Water Protection webpage

Protection of Surface Water Intakes

Surface water intakes (SWIs) draw water from rivers and lakes supplying the public with drinking water. There are over 30 such intakes in Nevada. NDEP is working with existing programs on protection of intakes, and researching new ways to protect intakes from pollution. Similar to the protection of ground water sources, surface water intake protection areas are designated within the watershed (i.e., Source Water Assessment delineated areas) for management of potential contaminant sources. Protection of multiple intakes drawing from the same river or lake is a priority.

Coordination with Existing Protection Programs

NDEP coordinates ground and surface water protection with other local, state and federal organizations. Many of the Source Water Protection activities are voluntary; however, compatibility with local regulatory programs and master planning is key for ensuring protection within Nevada's communities.

Source Water Protection staff work closely with US Environmental Protection Agency, Region 9 - Water Division; NDEP's existing Bureaus and programs, including the Bureau of Safe Drinking Water, Bureau of Water Pollution Control, and Bureau of Corrective Actions; the Nevada Rural Water Association; Rural Community Assistance Corporation; and continues to coordinate with existing protection efforts at Lake Tahoe, the Truckee River, and Lake Mead/Colorado River.

For More Information

Contact the NDEP's Bureau of Safe Drinking Water.

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