Making residents and businesses aware that their property lies within the wellfield protection area or near a water supply intake is an important component of source water protection.

Private property owners are key stakeholders to engage in the protection effort as their daily practices may unwittingly be a source of contamination .  Water suppliers should provide information to land owners on good housekeeping practices such as; maintaining septic systems, fertilizer applications, and hazardous materials storage.

Simple management approaches

  • Notification letters sent to property owners to inform them that the property is within a source water protection area
  • Education to source water protection area property owners about safe practices

More formal approaches

  • A Memorandum of Understanding – an agreement between the landowner and public water supplier in which the landowner agrees not to engage in specific threatening activities.  The MOU should be specific to the land use or activity.  For instance, if  the land is agricultural the owner could agree not to use or store fertilizers, pesticides and manure. Understanding how an activity threatens drinking water quality is an important component in developing an effective MOU.
  • A Right of First Refusal – a legal document which gives the water supplier the first chance to purchase  land when  it becomes  available.  Since the land may unexpectedly become available for purchase or acquisition, water systems should plan accordingly for possible land purchases.

In some cases, recharge areas sometimes extend into adjacent municipalities.  In these instances, it is recommended that the community is contacted to discuss inter-municipal protection strategies.

Water Supply Signs

Public water systems with PA DEP-approved Source Water Protection Plans may use roadways signs to raise awareness

Many water systems  have transportation corridors, both highways and railways, that pass through areas that provide drinking water. Accidents involving a spill of hazardous materials as well as stormwater on those highways and roads may wash de-icing materials to the rivers and creeks in source water areas. When spills occur, they have the potential to enter storm drains and reach the rivers and streams that furnish drinking water. It is essential therefore, for emergency personnel to respond quickly to a spill event.

Posting Water Supply Area signs is one of the steps some water systems have taken to raise awareness about protecting drinking water along roadways.  The signs alert motorists to the presence of the drinking water supply area, and engage their support to quickly reporting spills along the roadways to the 911 Emergency Response Center.  Water Systems are required to first have a PA DEP-approved Source Water Protection Plan to receive permission to erect signage along state highways.

Signage about water supply areas entails more than just fabricating and posting signs along the road, and is the reason that DEP requires prior approval of the SWP Program.  Signage is only one element of a complete community source water protection education program in which a coordinated emergency spill response program is developed to help address spill response near a public water supply (e.g. how are 911 calls to be handled and who is notified) as well as public education for residents and local officials in the host community where signs are to be erected.

The Water Resources Education Network offers off-the shelf educational materials that may be downloaded that were developed under a grant to PA Rural Water Association ( Please see the WREN webpage for examples of signs and educational postcards in PC and MAC format in high resolution:

For PENNDOT Sign Specification Information, click here>>

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