Drinking water can come from either surface water (bayous, rivers, etc.) or ground water (aquifers). Approximately two-thirds of Louisiana residents get their drinking water from ground water sources. Formerly, DEQ's drinking water protection efforts focused on ground water through implementation of the Wellhead Protection Program. With implementation of the Source Water Assessment program, DEQ's focus broadened to include surface waters. It is vitally important that all drinking water sources are protected for all of our citizens.
The Drinking Water Protection Program (DWPP) was designed by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to assist Louisiana communities in protecting their drinking water and preventing contamination of drinking water sources. The goals of the program are:
As well as focusing on public education and community activism, the program elements of the Drinking Water Protection Program also focus on zoning regulations and contingency planning by the water systems.
The Wellhead Protection Program was designed in 1989 to protect the quality of public drinking water supplies obtained from community water wells as a result of the Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments of 1986. "Wellhead" refers to the part of the water well that is present at the surface of the ground. In order to protect community water wells, we must prevent contamination of ground water supplies (aquifers) from poorly managed waste.
The program involves five steps:
In 1996, the Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments called for all states to complete delineations and inventories of all source water protection areas (any area surrounding a drinking water source, whether from ground or surface water) by May 6, 2003. It also called for each water system to be ranked according to its potential risk of contamination in a susceptibility to contamination analysis. The result is an evaluation of the source (ground and surface) water that provides drinking water to each system in Louisiana. This evaluation, or assessment, is used to assist local communities in implementing drinking water protection measures. Louisiana has successfully completed this task. Results from the Source Water Assessment Program (SWAP) include rankings of Louisiana's drinking water systems. The percentage of high, medium and low ranking systems was determined for both ground water and surface water systems. The majorty of ground water systems were ranked medium while the majority of surface water systems were ranked high. Six Louisiana water systems serve a combination of ground water and surface water. In SWAP, each combination system was given two separate rankings, one for ground water and one for surface water. Out of the six combination systems, one water system had a high surface water ranking and the remaining 5 had a medium surface water ranking. All six systems ranked medium in the ground water ranking of the susceptibility analysis.
The Drinking Water Protection Program (DWPP) is designed to follow the Source Water Assessment Program (SWAP) and includes elements from the Wellhead Protection Program. Through the completion of the SWAP, the delineation and inventory of the Drinking Water Protection Area, steps one and two of the Wellhead Protection Program, have been completed for all systems in the state. In the SWAP, surface water intakes were surveyed as well as ground water wells. Now that all information has been gathered through the SWAP, the Drinking Water Protection Team has moved on to protection activities.
Protection activities include elements of the Wellhead Protection Program such as contingency planning, zoning, and public education. The DWPP improves on the SWAP and the Wellhead Protection Program by focusing more on public education and community involvement. The DWPP uses the susceptibility analysis method from SWAP to direct protection activities to those systems that have a higher risk of contamination. Every attempt will be made to reach all communities and systems to ensure complete success of the DWPP.
DEQ will aid each community in developing its own Drinking Water Protection Program. The needs of each community differs, therefore each community's drinking water protection plan will be reflective of those individual needs. It is the goal of DEQ to enlist the help of local volunteers to form a committee of citizens dedicated to protecting drinking water sources in their own community. The local citizen committee will decide what actions to take based on the degree of protection needed by the community's drinking water source(s).
DEQ will maintain an ongoing relationship with the local citizen committees to provide information and guidance. In addition, DEQ provides Source Water Assessments to planning and zoning boards, spends time in communities giving presentations on drinking water protection, and works with local water systems to develop contingency plans.
The DEQ Drinking Water Protection Team wants to make everyone aware of their drinking water sources and how important it is to protect them. To do this, a public awareness campaign will be initiated in Louisiana communities. The Team releases press announcements, speaks on television and radio shows, and distributes information in the form of brochures, flyers, fact sheets, posters, and other forms of promotional material. Signs reading "Drinking Water Protection Area" are placed on major highways at the boundary of the drinking water protection areas for drinking water wells and surface water intakes to remind citizens that the actions they take in this sensitive area have a high impact on the quality of their drinking water. The Team gives educational presentations to schools and other organizations, as well as speaking to local citizens, officials, and water system operators, about the importance of drinking water protection. Businesses and industries within the drinking water protection area that store or handle chemicals have a greater chance of inadvertently contaminating the drinking water source because of their location. The Team also visits, or recruits volunteers to visit, businesses and other establishments within the drinking water protection area.
The key to promoting public involvement is first through public education. Once people are aware of potential problems, they are more likely to act to prevent them. Not only do we want to educate the public about drinking water concerns, we also want to get communities involved in protecting their own drinking water.
The DEQ Drinking Water Protection Team will work with communities on a parish or watershed level and will involve local officials, water system operators, community planners, businesses, citizens, students and others in the effort to protect drinking water. Establishment of a Drinking Water Protection Committee will be encouraged in each Louisiana community targeted by the program.
The Drinking Water Protection Committee is comprised of volunteers wanting to participate in continuing public education and drinking water protection actions in their own community. The committee works on different projects that will benefit the quality of the community's drinking water. Each individual committee chooses the dates, times, and frequency of their meetings. It is emphasized to the volunteer committees that even small amounts of time can be useful in helping the community protect its drinking water.
Possible committee projects include visiting businesses to distribute information on best management practices for the businesses, giving presentations at schools, arranging or participating in a household hazardous materials collection day, organizing a mail-out of drinking water protection information, or focusing efforts on passing a drinking water protection ordinance in your community. The Drinking Water Protection Team provides the Committee with tools to use for public education.
If you are interested in learning more about participating in a drinking water protection committee, or to find out if there is a committee near you, please contact the Drinking Water Protection Program staff at (225) 219-3510.
An ordinance is a statute enacted by the city or parish government. A drinking water protection ordinance is an ordinance passed with the purpose of protecting the community's drinking water sources. Zoning and ordinances can provide a high level of drinking water protection by specifying and regulating the type of activity surrounding drinking water sources.
DEQ recommends that communities pass drinking water protection ordinances and consider the location of public water supplies in planning and zoning activities. DEQ can provide maps in electronic or hard copy format to planning and zoning boards that show where wells and drinking water intakes are located and the extent of the drinking water protection area around each well or intake.
For more information on ordinances, see the Resources section. The model ordinance is simply provided as a tool to assist communities in preparing their own ordinances. No one should attempt to pass any ordinance without review by appropriate legal counsel.
As part of the Drinking Water Protection Program (DWPP), the Drinking Water Protection Team visits the operators and/or managers of each community water system in the area it is targeting. The Team reviews the Source Water Assessment Program (SWAP) reports with the water system personnel, answering any questions and pointing out possible risks drinking water source contamination. The Team discusses with the water system personnel possible prevention tools and best management practices, such as contingency planning, to prevent contamination of drinking water.
A contingency plan is a plan of action adopted by a community or water system to deal with a long or short-term partial or total loss of their normal water supply. The plan outlines alternative water sources and priority users, such as hospitals, in emergencies.
The DEQ Drinking Water Protection Team will visit and request contingency plans from all ground water and surface water systems. Once a ground water system submits a contingency plan, it will be recognized not only as having fulfilled the requirements of the DWPP, but also as having an approved Wellhead Protection Program (WHPP).
There is no program similar to the WHPP in existence for surface water systems at this time, but a surface water system must complete a contingency plan to fulfill the requirements of the DWPP.
The contingency plan is filed with the local Office of Emergency Preparedness because they could become involved with a water system in the case of an emergency loss of water, or other water system emergencies.
We can protect our drinking water by preventing contamination before it occurs: