Drinking Water Protection Program History

Drinking Water Protection Program   

The Drinking Water Protection Program (DWPP) was designed by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to assist Louisiana communities in protecting their drinking water and preventing contamination of drinking water sources.   The goals of the program are:

  • To increase public awareness of the importance of protecting drinking water sources, and
  • To educate communities on actions they can take to protect drinking water.

As well as focusing on public education and community activism, the program elements of the Drinking Water Protection Program also focus on zoning regulations and contingency planning by the water systems.

Drinking Water

Drinking water can come from either surface water (bayous, rivers, etc.) or ground water (aquifers). Approximately two-thirds of Louisiana residents get their drinking water from ground water sources. Formerly, DEQ's drinking water protection efforts focused on ground water through implementation of the Wellhead Protection Program.  With implementation of the Source Water Assessment program, DEQ's focus broadened to include surface waters.  It is vitally important that all drinking water sources are protected for all of our citizens.

Wellhead Protection Program

The Wellhead Protection Program was designed in 1989 to protect the quality of public drinking water supplies obtained from community water wells as a result of the Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments of 1986.  "Wellhead" refers to the part of the water well that is present at the surface of the ground.  In order to protect community water wells, we must prevent contamination of ground water supplies (aquifers) from poorly managed waste.

The program involves five steps:

1) Delineation of the protection area around the wellhead.  This area is usually a 1000-foot to a 1-mile radius surrounding the well, depending on well depth.

2) Inventory of all potential sources of contamination in the wellhead protection area. 

3) Discussion with the system and possible implementation of management options such as planning and zoning.

4) Submission of contingency plans by the water systems.

5) Public education on drinking water protection.

Source Water Assessment Program

In 1996, the Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments called for all states to complete delineations and inventories of all source water protection areas (any area surrounding a drinking water source, whether from ground or surface water) by May 6, 2003. It also called for each water system to be ranked according to its potential risk of contamination in a susceptibility to contamination analysis. The result is an evaluation of the source (ground and surface) water that provides drinking water to each system in Louisiana. This evaluation, or assessment, is used to assist local communities in implementing drinking water protection measures. Louisiana has successfully completed this task.  Results from the Source Water Assessment Program (SWAP) include rankings of Louisiana's drinking water systems.  The percentage of high, medium and low ranking systems was determined for both ground water and surface water systems.  The majorty of ground water systems were ranked medium while the majority of surface water systems were ranked high.  Six Louisiana water systems serve a combination of ground water and surface water.  In SWAP, each combination system was given two separate rankings, one for ground water and one for surface water.  Out of the six combination systems, one water system had a high surface water ranking and the remaining 5 had a medium surface water ranking.  All six systems ranked medium in the ground water ranking of the susceptibility analysis.  

For more information on the Source Water Assessment Program, see DEQ's SWAP web page.

Merging of the Programs  

The Drinking Water Protection Program (DWPP) is designed to follow the Source Water Assessment Program (SWAP) and includes elements from the Wellhead Protection Program. Through the completion of the SWAP, the delineation and inventory of the Drinking Water Protection Area, steps one and two of the Wellhead Protection Program, have been completed for all systems in the state.  In the SWAP, surface water intakes were surveyed as well as ground water wells.   Now that all information has been gathered through the SWAP, the Drinking Water Protection Team will move on to protection activities.

Protection activities include elements of the Wellhead Protection Program such as contingency planning, zoning, and public education.    The DWPP improves on the SWAP and the Wellhead Protection Program by focusing more on public education and community involvement. The DWPP uses the susceptibility analysis method from SWAP to direct protection activities to those systems that have a higher risk of contamination. Every attempt will be made to reach all communities and systems to ensure complete success of the DWPP.

DEQ's Commitment           

DEQ will aid each community in developing its own Drinking Water Protection Program. The needs of each community differs, therefore each community's drinking water protection plan will be reflective of those individual needs. It is the goal of DEQ to enlist the help of local volunteers to form a committee of citizens dedicated to protecting drinking water sources in their own community. The local citizen committee will decide what actions to take based on the degree of protection needed by the community's drinking water source(s).

DEQ will maintain an ongoing relationship with the local citizen committees to provide information and guidance. In addition, DEQ provides Source Water Assessments to planning and zoning boards, spends time in communities giving presentations on drinking water protection, and works with local water systems to develop contingency plans.

Drinking Water Protection Team Member Jesse Means with the
 St. Landry Parish Drinking Water Protection Committee Officers
(Front row, left to right) Flo Dupre, Luke Deshotels and Angela Savoy
(Back row, left to right) Jesse Means (DEQ) and Sgt. Mark LeBlanc


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