Water is crucial to every municipality’s future. Without water a community is not viable; it is not sustainable over time.

(WREN gratefully acknowledges the assistance of Dr. Stanford M. Lembeck, AICP, Chair of Pennsylvania Municipal Planning Education Institute (PMPEI) with the following content on the MPC.)

When we think about protecting the community’s drinking water sources, we need to think differently; we need to think three-dimensionally.

Here are Basic Water Planning Questions

  • What’s under your municipality?
  • How does what’s on the surface affect what’s below?
  • How does what’s below affect what’s on the surface?
  • What’s going on nearby?

The are many references to water in the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code, often referred to as the “MPC.”

  • A mandated element of a comprehensive plan is a “Plan for Water”
  • Water is a consideration in land development plans
  • Land uses and structures can be regulated at, along and near natural and artificial bodies of water

Planning Commissions should be aware of and implement the following:

MPC §301 (b) The comprehensive plan shall include a plan for the reliable supply of water, considering current and future water resources availability, uses and limitations, including provisions adequate to protect water supply sources.

(emphasis added by WREN – protecting water supply sources is source water protection)

MPC §209.1 (b)(7.1) At the request of the Governing Body The planning commission may prepare and present to the governing body of the municipality a water survey, which shall be consistent with the State Water Plan and any applicable water resources plan adopted by a river basin commission.

MPC §503 The subdivision and land development ordinance may include- (10) Provisions and standards for insuring that new developments incorporate adequate provisions for a reliable, safe and adequate water supply to support intended uses within the capacity of available resources.

The following are some ordinance examples that help protect drinking water sources in Pennsylvania.  It is by no means a complete list of protective ordinances in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.


Stormwater Ordinance

Montgomery Township >>


Overlay Zoning Examples in Pennsylvania

Oley Township – Berks County – enacted 11/14/11

Provided definitions for hazardous materials, nutrient/manure management plans, wellhead protection area, and well head protection zones. and established well head protection standards to protect public health, safety and welfare. Click to view ordinance.

South Middleton Township  - Cumberland County – enacted 1998


1405. WP Wellhead Protection District

The Wellhead Protection District as established in the Wellhead Protection Ordinance No. 1 of 2010, shall be incorporated herein and made a part of by reference, as an overlay zone.


The purpose of the Wellhead Protection District is to safeguard the public health, safety and welfare, by providing regulation of land use and the manufacture, use, storage, transport, or disposal of hazardous and other substances which pose a threat to the quality and quantity of groundwater being extracted from the South Middleton Township municipal wells. It is the further intent of this District to recognize and protect a uniquely vulnerable groundwater resource area, defined by a carbonate geologic formation which is prone to the development of sinkholes and fractures that allow rapid infiltration of contaminants to these wells.


Shrewsbury Township York County – Wellhead Protection Zoning Overlay enacted Jan 4, 2010

The Shrewsbury Borough Council developed a wellhead protection program that protects the groundwater underlying the community water supply, which consists of several wells located throughout the borough and Shrewsbury Township.

Groundwater is currently the sole source of public water. It is not an infinitely renewable resource.  Growth threatens to deplete the available groundwater supply through excess demand and inhibits the recharge capability of the area through exorbitant impervious areas and competing resource uses.

Accidental spills and discharges of toxic and regulated substances can threaten the quality of our water, posing public health and safety hazards. These hazards are a greater threat because of the increasing land development, population and vehicular traffic all through our region but especially in the vicinity of our wellheads.

Click here to see the borough ordinance establishing a wellhead protection overlay district.

The borough’s Zoning Officer was given the responsibility for administration and enforcement of the ordinance. click here for a list of regulated uses in a wellhead protection district.

Dog Waste

Example of dog waste ordinance in Pennsylvania: Lower Providence Township


Riparian Buffers &  Ordinances

EPA___Model_Ordinances_to_Protect_Local_Resources___Aquatic_Buffers.pdf (312.0 KB) – http://www.epa.gov/owow/nps/ordinance/mol1.htm

The Pennsylvania Land Trust Association offers a library of materials helpful for land management in Pennsylvania and ordinance development, including examples and background materials at its Conservation Tools.org website.

Legal Analysis of Riparian Buffer Ordinances in Pennsylvania: http://conservationtools.org/libraries/1/library_items/1215-A-Legal-Analysis-of-Riparian-Buffer-Ordinances-in-Pennsylvania

ConservationTools.org webpage on Riparian Buffers >>


Storage Tank Ordinance

Ordinance to protect Public Water Supply: College Township, Centre County, PA – Ordinance to Regulate the location of Storage Tanks, Dispensing Area Design Standards  and Physical Barrier Protection.  Click to view Ordinance.


Wetland Buffer Ordinances

Planner’s Guide to Wetland Buffers for Local Governments

Authors: Environmental Law Institute

Date Released: March 2008, 26 pages

Planner's Guide to Wetland Buffers for Local Governments

The upland area surrounding a wetland – the wetland buffer – is essential to its health and survival. Healthy wetlands and buffer areas help to control flooding, protect water flows, conserve native plants and wildlife, and support nature-friendly land use and development. Local governments are often better situated than state and federal environmental authorities to control activities on the lands that surround wetland resource areas, because they are not just concerned with wetland functions, but also with surrounding land uses and the benefits wetlands provide for their communities.

Based on ELI’s detailed examination of more than 50 enacted wetland buffer ordinances around the nation and nine model ordinances, as well as several hundred scientific studies and analyses of buffer performance, the “Planner’s Guide to Wetland Buffers for Local Governments” identifies both the state-of-the-art and the range of current practice in protection of wetland buffers by local governments. The Guide provides to local governments considering enacting or amending a wetland buffer ordinance what they need to know to manage land use and development in these important areas.



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