A Community-based Approach to the Wellhead Protection Area Management Planning Process in Nebraska
Groundwater is and will continue to be the source of drinking water for the vast majority of Nebraskans, and protection of this vital resource is becoming increasingly important. For example, expanding development may bring with it more potential sources of contamination, growing populations may stress the quantity of water available, and intensive agricultural practices may increase the need for more proactive management strategies. Whether faced with an existing impairment to the water source or seeking ways to prevent contamination, wellhead protection makes good economic and environmental sense.
Wellhead Protection is a voluntary program in Nebraska. Public Water Supply Systems (PWSSs) in Nebraska have the option of developing a Wellhead Protection Plan. The plan is generally written by a local community official or a technical advisor and provides the PWSS with a detailed account of the potential threats to the system and general management strategies, including ordinances related to wellhead protection.
This process includes five steps:
- Delineate the Wellhead Protection Area (WHPA).
- Inventory potential sources of contamination.
- Manage potential contaminant sources.
- Develop emergency and contingency plans.
- Educate and involve the public.
Wellhead Protection Area Management is the next step communities should take after developing a wellhead protection plan that has been formally approved by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality. In order for a management program to be successful, it must be locally-driven and thoughtfully planned out. The management program must also identify management strategies that will have the greatest effect on reducing the threat of contamination of the water source.
The Community-based Wellhead Protection Area Management Planning Process is a series of steps that a community may follow to take their drinking water resource protection efforts to the next level – a results-oriented level – by identifying and implementing specific, customized management strategies within their wellhead protection area. Technical experts will be included throughout the process to provide community members the information they need to make good management decisions for their wellhead protection area and, in turn, groundwater supply.
This manual is intended to be used as a step-by-step guide to completing the Wellhead Protection Area Management Planning Process. It has been written specifically for community PWSSs that use groundwater as their primary source, have a state-approved Wellhead Protection Plan, and are ready to begin the implementation phase of on-the-ground protection.
This manual has been written in chronological order and divided into two phases – Pre-planning Activities and Planning Activities. One individual will be the coordinator of this process, but it will be a community effort. This coordinator should be someone who will be present during all phases of the process, which may take up to one year. At the completion of the process, the PWSS will have a complete Wellhead Protection Area Management Plan, outlining specific actions that will be taken over time to protect the water source. This plan may also be used as the basis for applications to a variety of grant programs to receive funding to implement the identified activities and land management practices.
The manual may also be used as a guide for community PWSSs that have not yet developed a stateapproved Wellhead Protection Plan, but are interested in doing so utilizing a community-based process. For more information about developing a state-approved wellhead protection plan or a wellhead protection area management plan, contact the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality’s Water Quality Planning Unit at (402) 471-2186.