The federal Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments of 1996 (P.L.104-182), herein referred to as SDWA, established a Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) Program. As a part of the DWSRF, funds have been set-aside to enhance the ability of waterworks owners to ensure long-term capacity to produce safe drinking water and to protect source waters. Awareness of Source Water Protection has been established via the VDH Source Water Assessment Program (VDH-SWAP).
Protecting source water can benefit the environment, the waterworks owners and the public. The environment benefits from cleaner water with fewer pollutants, the owner benefits from reduced costs in treating the water, and the public benefits from safer drinking water and a cleaner environment.
On May 26, 2005, EPA granted final approval to Virginia's Wellhead Protection Program. Protection of ground water source public water systems will be achieved through: ongoing regulatory and non-regulatory state programs; voluntary participation by local governments in land use management; and development of local planning and zoning ordinance that accounts for these issues.
Initially the Office of Drinking Water (ODW) conducted Source Water Assessments. The following listed steps of this process included: source water delineation; ‘Potential Sources of Contamination’, ‘Land Use Activities’, and ‘Potential Conduits’ inventory development; and assigning a susceptibility rating to each source.
Source Water Protection Plans should address the conditions found during the Assessment that caused the source to be labeled “highly” susceptible. Many source waters in Virginia that were designated as highly susceptible have had SWPPs developed.
Source Water Protection Programs are voluntary in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The ODW encourages and financially supports community's efforts to develop source water protection plans. This program provides technical support to assist small water systems serving less than 3,300 people. Historically, ODW has supported groundwater source water protection. Plans related to groundwater source protection are sometimes called Wellhead Protection Plans.
To further the efforts of the Source Water Assessment Program, the Department of Health has created a Wellhead Protection Plan development program for small community groundwater waterworks in central and western Virginia. Participation in this program has enabled several small water systems to prepare and implement site-specific Wellhead Protection Plans while a number of other waterworks are currently in the process of completing Wellhead Protection Plans. Further details are available in the Wellhead Protection Plan Development Approach.
The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality also provides assistance for the implementation of recommended actions contained in the Wellhead Protection Plans. More information on the DEQ’s role in source water protection can be found at: http://www.deq.virginia.gov/gwpsc/whp.html.