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Integration of Watershed Planning and Wellhead Protection Programs

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For communities using groundwater as the primary source of water supply, delineating, managing, and protecting the wellhead recharge area is essential to assuring a sustainable water resource system. Because many communities are also required to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for discharges from municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s), delineating the relevant watershed and preparing a plan to manage stormwater runoff could be needed for permit compliance. If a community has a need for both wellhead protection and watershed management plans, consideration should be given to integrate these programs. Integration offers the opportunity to improve overall effectiveness, save costs, and to avoid overlap. To assist with evaluating the opportunities for integration, this poster paper provides a comparison of wellhead protection elements and MS4 stormwater permit requirements. Common elements of the two programs will be identified and differences will be presented.

A significant common element of the two programs is the need to identify pollution sources and to promote the use of Best Management Practices (BMPs) which control and eliminate pollution at its source. The process to perform a condition assessment followed by setting program goals, identifying constraints, and evaluating and selecting feasible control strategies can be integrated by considering the relationship of these activities.

Other common elements of the two programs include public outreach and education, establishing operating procedures, assigning action plan responsibilities, obtaining funding, and evaluating performance results. By developing an integrated program, staffing responsibilities can be consolidated, duplication of activities can be avoided, dollars can be leveraged, and the public message and ability to understand key issues can be improved.

One of the common tools for evaluating system performance, to define problems and to prepare control strategies, is hydrologic and hydraulic modeling. By preparing an integrated program, the linkages between the surface water and groundwater systems can be considered in a comprehensive manner. Modeling provides a technical basis to understand the linkages between surface and groundwater, a quantification of the water budget, pollutant loading estimates, estimating management scenario effectiveness, and a tool for evaluating progress. A schematic of factors for integrated hydrologic modeling will be presented.

The major difference between the two programs is the fact that the wellhead protection program is voluntary while the stormwater system is regulated when a permit is required. By integrating the two, the message and strategy to accomplish results with the wellhead protection program can be improved by establishing regulated actions that can also meet storm water needs. Another difference is visibility of the systems, although they are both underground, people can see surface water but have a hard time understanding the linkages between surface and groundwater. In addition, although the management areas for the wellhead recharge zone and watershed boundaries may not always match, adopting ordinances and implementation of control strategies should link and strengthen management actions that can cover both areas.

Some of the challenges and concerns for accomplishing the integration of wellhead protection and watershed planning programs include the need to gain support to do things differently, having too few staff, tight budgets, using a truly comprehensive and integrated approach, measuring progress, and developing details that can achieve real results.

Each of the topics identified will be presented to cover issues across the country and for a range of systems. Suggestions for developing programs will be presented with lessons learned.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2006

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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