Source Water Protection


Source water refers to sources of water (such as rivers, streams, lakes, reservoirs, springs, and groundwater) that provide water to public drinking water supplies and private wells. 

Protecting source water can reduce risks by preventing exposures to contaminated water. Drinking water utilities that meet the definition of a public water system are responsible for meeting the requirements of EPA and state drinking water programs under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). Protecting source water from contamination helps reduce treatment costs and may avoid or defer the need for complex treatment.

There are many additional benefits associated with source water protection, such as protecting water quality for wildlife and recreational use and protecting the availability and quantity of water supplies.

Access to clean, safe drinking water is the essential ingredient to a healthy and viable community. Severe human health, ecological, and economic consequences follow from losses of current and future drinking water sources—losses that can be prevented. The potential for contamination of drinking water, coupled with the high cost of treating water and locating and developing alternate water sources, makes it imperative that federal, state, and local entities adopt and implement effective strategies for long-term protection of drinking water sources.


All drinking water sources, both public and private, are vulnerable to contamination from an array of human activities such as septic system discharges, waste-site releases, underground storage system leaks, nonpoint-source pollution, and agricultural chemicals. Without diligent attention to managing these potential sources of contamination, our drinking water will come at a higher cost over time. This cost includes the increasing need for water treatment, monitoring, remediation, finding alternate water supplies, providing bottled water, consultants, staff time, and litigation. Source water protection is simpler, less expensive, and more reliable over the long term.

From the Ground Water Report to the Nation

Source Water Protection – Summary Sheet : Full Chapter

Additional Resources