Wellhead Protection is a practice that relies on the voluntary efforts of communities to protect their groundwater supplies from contamination. Public water supply systems (PWSS-the BWL), supported by local, regional and state government, identify areas that contribute to groundwater supply and develop plans and procedures for minimizing contamination risks from those areas. Substantial support from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is available through 50% matching of PWSS expenditures on these efforts.
The Board of Water & Light contracted with the Lansing office of the United States Geological Survey in 1991 to have its water supply well contributing area identified. In simplest terms, this is the area which will contribute to the groundwater supplying the well within 10 years. This "delineation" told us where our wells would be most vulnerable to surface contamination.
Using matching funds from the State of Michigan, the BWL has hired a consulting firm that is identifying as many of the known and potential sites of contamination as possible. Examples of these sites would be underground storage tanks, pipelines, or hazardous waste users or generators. This task should be up to date by the end of 2003, and tracking of new potential or actual sites will be an ongoing task of the Wellhead Protection Teams.
Management strategies utilized by Wellhead Protection Teams enable communities to protect against the specific hazards and conditions that exist in an area. Land use regulations, best management practices and public education are some of the strategies that can be effective in controlling wellhead contamination threats.
The Board of Water & Light has integrated wellhead protection into its contingency plan for responding to emergencies. Proper response to emergencies includes efficient notification of appropriate officials and the public, immediate response plans and medium and long-range mitigation of contamination events. Securing an alternate water supply is also a part of the plan.
New well siting must take into account location, size and construction standards. Because wellhead protection is accomplished more easily and cheaply at the time of construction, expansion plans must incorporate these standards to ensure that new wells are not subject to contamination threats.
Through the Capital Area Groundwater Alliance (CAGA), the BWL participates in a wide variety of public outreach activities. Using radio and TV ads, brochures and leaflets, and film, we are engaging the community in discussion about and participation in the wellhead protection process. Through forums and presentations such as at the annual Children's Water Festival, we are working to communicate the importance of wellhead protection to the public.
Because our only source for drinking water is the groundwater in the Saginaw Aquifer, the Board of Water & Light has been actively involved in regional wellhead protection efforts. We have been members of the City of Lansing Wellhead Protection Team from its inception. We have supported neighboring units of government in wellhead protection efforts as well by joining their teams or participating in regional groundwater protection groups like the Capital Area Groundwater Alliance, the Groundwater Management Board, and the Groundwater Technical Advisory Committee.
For more information, try the following links:
» Michigan DEQ Wellhead Protection ProgramInformation on various aspects of wellhead protection in our state. Describes many of the programs and grants that the state administers.
» U.S. EPA Source Water Protection ProgramJust one of the many EPA web pages that contain varied and detailed information about water and drinking water. Visit this page and drill down and out through a vast information source.