Farming In A Drinking Water Source Area

Photo by Matt Kofroth


According to Pennsylvania regulations, all farms, regardless of size, or whether they are located within a source water protection area, are required to have a written Erosion & Sediment Control (E&S) Plan and Manure Management Plan. These plans help farmers conserve and improve soils and best utilize manure, to increase profitability and minimize sediment and nutrient pollution in local streams and groundwater. The sixty-six Conservation Districts across Pennsylvania work to assist the agricultural community in an effort to increase awareness of these requirements.

According to PA Department of Environmental Protection, an animal operation is defined as having as few as one cow, one horse, and other amounts of animals such as llamas, alpacas, etc. Conservation Districts can be very helpful with on-farm technical assistance and most will work with individual farmers, regardless of farm size, prior to federal or state inspections.

Assisting farmers with development of these plans will help them meet the baseline compliance requirements, and ultimately, will result in cleaner water for all.

What is baseline compliance?

It is actually rather simple; farmers need the following:

  • Manure Management Plan (MMP)
  • Agricultural Erosion & Sediment Control Plan (E&S) or Conservation Plan

All farms in Pennsylvania are required to have these plans in place and have them readily available for review.

A MMP helps maximize the nutrients that livestock deposit, and in turn, cuts down on fertilizer costs. Whether a farmer applies manure using a piece of equipment, or the animals apply it to land themselves, farms of all sizes are required to have an MMP under state law.  A MMP will also provide guidance to producers about set-backs from environmentally sensitive areas such as wells, streams and sinkholes.

An Agricultural E&S/Conservation Plan will assist in good stewardship of soil with suggestions for different crop rotations, strip cropping, spring developments, heavy use area protection (HUAP) and many other alternatives. These two plans can help farmers make good decisions about their operations and the environment.


Pennsylvania Nutrient Management website offers a comprehensive source of            information about Pennsylvania’s Nutrient Management Act (Act 38, 2005) Program, and associated technical guidance and educational information.  Click for PA Nutrient Management Website

Land Application of Manure – Manure Management Plan Guidance

Pennsylvania Nutrient Management Program Publications and Fact Sheets

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Manure Management webpage

Agricultural Workgroup Presentation (Berks County)

Snyder County Agricultural BMP Guide

US EPA Nonpoint Source Pollution Resources–Agriculture.
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US EPA Fact Sheet–Protecting Water Quality from Agricultural Runoff.
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US EPA Resources–Animal Feeding Operations.
Go to web site

US EPA Source Water Protection Practices Bulletin–Managing Agricultural Fertilizer Application to Prevent Contamination of Drinking Water.
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US EPA Source Water Protection Practices Bulletin–Managing Large-Scale Application of Pesticides to Prevent Contamination of Drinking Water.
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US Dept of Agriculture Online Publication–Riparian Forest Buffers: Function and Design for Protection and Enhancement of Water Resources.
Go to Web site >>

Source Water Collaborative Field to Faucet Go to Website>>

Agricultural Outreach:  Source Water Protection Lessons for Adults and Students

NOTE: As of 2/26/15, FFA is revising its national website and the lessons below are not yet available at their new website, and some links apparently do not work.  Once they make the lessons available online again, WREN will update the Lesson links.  Here is FFA’s statement - “We apologize for the inconvenience of not being able to find the curriculum. We are working to get all of the lessons back up on our site since the new site launch. Once they are up you will be able to find these and other educator resources at:

The FFA organization released a series of 20 source water protection lessons helpful for adults and students for the high school level through a partnership with USDA and EPA. The lessons contain hands-on and remedial activities, supplemental web and community resources, assessments, and community stewardship. Content covered includes the water cycle, drinking water basics, the watershed approach, and agricultural conservation practices to protect water quality.

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