Integrated Source Water Protection

What is Integrated Source Water Protection? Integrated source water protection is essentially a coordinated planning effort to address preventable contamination of Nevada's public drinking water sources. Since the majority of public drinking water supply systems in Nevada rely upon ground water, the primary goal of the program is the protection of ground water that is captured by public drinking water wells and springs. Nevada communities must realize that much less effort and money is spent to protect drinking water supplies than to clean them once contamination has occurred

NDEP has contracted with a technical assistance provider to guide and assist communities to develop and implement local plans. NDEP recognizes that public water system personnel are typically busy with the day to day operations associated with running the water system, and in many cases do not have the resources or authority to carry out all aspects of local source water protection planning and implementation. Technical assistance is available to communities and water systems in virtually all aspects of developing and implementing a Community Source Water Protection Plan. These local plans address five (5) elements that serve to educate the community and encourage active participation in developing and executing the plan as shown in the figure below.


NDEP encourages county agencies to lead the planning process, in lieu of public water system managers and operators. NDEP envisions a county-wide approach to the community source water protection planning process because the political structure of local government in Nevada promotes local control and management of natural resources through either county or incorporated city entities. These entities generally have the ability and existing mechanisms to provide both regulatory and non-regulatory measures that can directly protect and preserve ground water quality.

NDEP has established a Program schedule that will enable each county in Nevada to participate in the program. Each public water system within a county will be invited to participate in the local planning effort and on the local planning team. NDEP can initiate the process by approaching a county once every 10-12 years, to solicit interest and support in the development of plans from communities within the county. NDEP may visit the communities that show interest in Plan development with the support and/or knowledge of the Board of County Commissioners.

What is a Source Water Protection Area? The land surface and area beneath in which activities and land uses must be managed in order to protect the underlying ground water is called a source water protection area (also commonly referred to as a Wellhead Protection Area). The protection area is generally represented on the land surface as a circular or elliptical shape around the well (see figure below). The areas are typically computer generated models that outline a specific time it may take a contaminant to reach the well called time of travel (TOT). This is done so that communities would have planning and response time if a contamination event occurred.

In some cases, it may also be necessary to manage activities in areas located some distance from the well or protection area because they contribute precipitation (snow melt and rain) that may travel to the ground water and possibly recharge the well or spring. Communities may also define the area using other physical boundaries such as roads for ease and efficiency in managing the area.



What contaminates ground water? There are numerous pollutants that can contaminate ground water. Some contaminants are a result of improperly disposed of common household products like cleaning products, waste oil, pet waste, fertilizers and pesticides. Others may be used or generated by businesses such as dry cleaners, photo shops, salons, cemeteries, landfills, petroleum storage and handling, etc. Here's a list of Nevada Potential Contaminant Sources. Contaminant sources that are located in or in close proximity to a source water protection area should be clearly identified on community planning maps.

What is done to protect the ground water? Maps of the source water protection areas are overlain with other community land use planning and zoning maps. Communities then may adopt strategies to protect these areas by considering the risk of contamination from existing or proposed future land use activities. Communities may desire strategies that are regulatory and/or non-regulatory in nature based upon their knowledge of existing land uses in these areas and their assessment of current water quality and quantity to provide clean drinking water to the community into the future. Examples of regulatory versus non-regulatory management options are outlined in the Integrated Source Water Protection Program guidance.

Where can I get more Information? If you would like to obtain more information about source water protection, contact the Bureau of Safe Drinking Water at (775)687-9503.

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