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Source Water Assessment and Protection Program

The 1996 amendments to the federal Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) required states to develop and implement a source water assessment program (SWAP). Source water protection (SWP) is a proactive approach to protecting our critical sources of public water supply and assuring that the best source of water is being utilized to serve the public. It involves implementation of pollution prevention practices to protect the water quality in a watershed or wellhead protection area serving a public water supply. Along with treatment, it establishes a multi-barrier approach to assuring clean and safe drinking water to the citizens of Illinois.

Pollution prevention, like preventive medicine, starts with awareness. Thus, source water assessment is the cornerstone essential to the development and implementation of source water protection plans and includes the following:

  • Delineating the source water protection area (e.g., watersheds and wellhead protection areas);
  • Inventorying potential contamination sources;
  • Determining the susceptibility of the source water to contamination
  • Providing recommendations to protect the source water; and
  • Providing this information to the public.

The Illinois EPA has implemented a source water assessment program (SWAP) to assist with wellhead and watershed protection of public drinking water supplies.

More than 11 million people in Illinois rely on public water supplies for drinking water. Assessments have been conducted for all public water supplies in Illinois, including approximately 1,800 community water supplies. In addition, more than 4,100 non-community water supplies have been assessed. Illinois SWAP activities are divided into the following areas: 1) community surface water supplies; 2) non-community surface water supplies; 3) Community groundwater supplies; Great Lakes (Lake Michigan supplies); 4) non-community groundwater supplies; and 5) mixed ground and surface water community water supplies.

The Source Water Assessment Program, as implemented by Illinois EPA, will help communities make important decisions about how to protect their drinking water. By working to ensure safe drinking water supplies, the health and economy of the community, as well as the preservation of natural resources, will be greatly improved. In addition, investments in drinking water treatment will be sustained for a longer time period.

For more information on the SWAP for Illinois contact Anthony Dulka, Illinois EPA, Bureau of Water, Groundwater Section, at 217-785-4787. Questions pertaining to public non-community water supplies should be directed to local health departments or the Illinois Department of Public Health at 217-782-5830.

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