Step 5: Plan for the Future

Protective, preventative actions should be the first priority as they are the first ‘barrier’ in a multiple barrier approach to reduce the risk of contamination to drinking water sources. However, unforeseen events can and do happen. Rapid action may be needed to mitigate the damage and recover as quickly as possible.

Emergency planning (also referred to as contingency planning) is one of the most valuable parts of the Source Water Protection process.

It puts answers to many of the “what if” type questions and can enable your system to react thoughtfully to a problem instead of reacting to a crisis. It also considers possibilities for short and long term replacement sources in the event of an emergency.

Be Prepared for Emergency Response, Alternative Supply, Community Growth.

What if a tanker spill or tank leak occurred today that caused a large pool of fuel within 300 feet of one of your wells or within a mile upstream from your intake?

These are the types of questions to which you should have answers before you actually need them.

  • Is the well or intake threatened?
  • Is there an emergency response mechanism in place sufficient to contain the spill?
  • Should you shut down the well or intake?
  • Can you provide an alternate and safe supply of water for a short period of time until the threat has passed?
  • Do you have the funding to pay for water via a tank truck for a short period of time?
  • Is providing an alternative source of water an option?

Recommended Steps for Downstream and Wellhead Spill Notification

  • Locate sites of potential contamination sources (PCSs): Locate sites of  PCSs and permitted outfalls (using GIS mapping, if possible) upstream of surface water intakes, and within wellhead protection areas for public water systems, and determine time of travel for relevant contaminants to reach the intake or well.
  • Develop communication strategies and emergency response protocols: The time to develop your critical communication links with others is not in the midst of a crisis.  Develop your communication plan, contact list and emergency response procedures with operators at these PCS and upstream systems, along with relevant government agencies and partners and other potentially impacted downstream or nearby drinking water systems and sites.
  • Contaminant identification and Health Effects Data: Collect information and health effects data for known contaminants.
  • Develop or enhance monitoring and surveillance: Develop or enhance monitoring and surveillance (i.e. an early warning spill detection system) using online water quality monitoring, contaminant sampling and analysis, enhanced security monitoring, consumer complaint surveillance, public health surveillance and incident management to detect contaminants before they reach the intake or well and within the distribution system.


Have You Done Adequate Planning for your GROUNDWATER system?

In addition to the short-term response described above, groundwater-based systems should also consider the type of response if a well is permanently contaminated. Do you have a back-up source or at least an idea of where to locate a back-up well? For example, the delineation effort (Step 2) will have provided useful information concerning the source of water. Use that information to complete a source water protection area delineation for a new well location.

A SWP plan must include adequate planning for new sources including careful consideration of potential sites, existing land use, predicted Zone I/Zone A area, how to obtain access and rights to areas if necessary and how the areas will be protected.  Also, provisions for alternate water supply must be described such as arrangements for bulk hauling or sources of interconnection with another system.

Planning for SURFACE WATER Systems:

Long-term planning needs for a surface water-based system vary considerably between public water systems. Surface water systems may be able to allow serious contamination threats to pass by, by closing intake valves and then reopening after the threat has passed. Surface water-based systems on small streams should consider their response to a total loss of their current supply through contamination or drought as a response planning exercise.

HOW to Begin

First off, the community planning team or operator should review the public water system emergency plan (if one exists) and make any needed modification to update the plan. If no emergency plan currently exists, the team should put one together. This would also be a good time for the County Emergency Coordinator to meet with the operator or team to discuss how you will interact in the event a disaster threatens the water supply. It is important that local emergency response officials know about the SWP delineated area to ensure priority response should a spill or disaster occur.

Useful information for developing a contingency plan may be available through local fire companies and other emergency response agencies that are part of a community’s emergency network established by Title III of the Superfund Amendment and Reauthorization Act (SARA). The focus of contingency planning under SARA Title III is hazardous chemical spills, but the emergency network may be used and supplemented for a SWP contingency plan.

Disruptions to the public water supply may occur due to natural disasters, accidents or even vandalism. The local governing entity and public water supply should plan for these emergencies and should be prepared to provide an alternative drinking water supply.

An Emergency Plan is developed by addressing 10 KEY ELEMENTS. Go >>

Comments are closed.