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Wellhead Protection Plan

What is Wellhead Protection?

Wellhead protection is a way to prevent drinking water from becoming polluted by managing potential sources of contamination in the area which supplies water to a public well. Much can be done to prevent pollution, such as the wise use of land and chemicals. Public health is protected and the expense of treating polluted water or drilling new wells is avoided through wellhead protection efforts.

Schematic of a groundwater-flow system in an agricultural setting. In this example, infiltration of water from either precipitation or irrigation can transport phosphorus or other chemicals to the unsaturated zone and aquifer.

What is Groundwater?

Groundwater is the water that fills the small spaces between rock particles such as sand and gravel, or cracks in solid rock. Rain, melting snow, or surface water becomes groundwater by seeping into the ground and filling these spaces. The top of the water-saturated zone is called the “water table”.

When water seeps in from the surface and reaches the water table, it begins moving towards points where it can escape, such as wells, rivers, or lakes.

An aquifer is any type of geologic material, such as sand or sandstone, which can supply water wells or springs.

The groundwater, which supplies wells, often comes from within a short distance (a few miles) of the well. How fast groundwater moves depends on how much the well is pumped and what type of rock particles or bedrock it is moving through.

How do wells become polluted?

Wells become polluted when substances that are harmful to human health get into the groundwater. Water from these wells can be dangerous to drink when the level of pollution rises above health standards. Many of our everyday activities can cause pollution. Much can be done to prevent pollution, such as wise use of land and chemicals. The expense of treating polluted water or drilling new wells can also be avoided. Help avoid drinking water contamination by being an environmentally aware citizen.

How can you help?

  • Inform the water department of any potential contamination sources (see list below). Be sure to indicate the type and location of each source.
  • Have abandoned water wells properly capped and sealed.
  • Conserve water: Some contaminants are naturally degraded within soils. The less groundwater you use, the longer it stays in the ground, and the greater chance that it can clean itself.
  • Be aware that your activities at the land surface can have a direct effect on the water you use every day.

Potential Contaminant Sources

  • Abandoned Wells
  • Underground Storage Tanks
  • Surface Storage Tanks
  • Past Spills/Leaks
  • Car Washes
  • Dry Cleaners
  • Vehicle Repair or Salvage Operations
  • Landfills/Dump Sites


Image courtesy of the Groundwater Foundation. www.groundwater.org

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