Wellhead Protection Program

May 2002


The Wellhead Protection Program was transferred from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to the New York State Department of Health (DOH) and integrated with the DOH's Source Water Assessment Program. The Source Water Assessment Program provides information on the potential threat of contamination to both ground water and surface water sources that supply New York's public drinking water systems. Integrating the Wellhead Protection Program and the Source Water Assessment Program assures program efficiency and compatibility and provides additional protection to New York's drinking waters. Communities developing a wellhead protection program should contact their local health department to formulate a strategy to integrate their Source Water Assessment into their Wellhead Protection Program.

The Wellhead Protection Program was created by the 1986 Amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act. The DEC developed New York's Wellhead Protection Program, which was approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1990. The goal of the Wellhead Protection Program is to protect the ground water sources and wellhead areas that supply public drinking water systems from contamination. New York's approach to wellhead protection recognizes and includes the existing federal, state and county programs that protect groundwater and complements these programs through a combination of activities and efforts using existing public and private agencies and organizations at all levels.

In October 1998, Governor Pataki transferred the administration of New York's Wellhead Protection Program from the DEC to the DOH. This transfer was initiated to improve program efficiency and compatibility with the DOH's Source Water Assessment Program. The 1996 Amendments to the federal Safe Drinking Water Act mandate that each state develop a Source Water Assessment Program. In New York, the Source Water Assessment Program is being developed and implemented by the DOH. Although the Wellhead Protection Program has been transferred to the DOH, the DEC retains the lead responsibility for several key programs that provide a foundation for wellhead and source water protection. The DOH will administer the Wellhead Protection Program in accordance with the EPA approved Wellhead Protection Program plan.

Under the Source Water Assessment Program, source water assessments will be completed for all sources of public drinking water, including surface water sources, which are used by public water systems. Source water assessments will provide information on the potential contaminant threats to public drinking water sources. Each assessment will include:

  • a delineation of the aquifer and/or watershed area(s) contributing to the drinking water supply;
  • an inventory of the potential contaminant sources within these defined areas that may pose a threat to the drinking water quality; and
  • an evaluation of the likelihood that the drinking water supply could become contaminated.

Completed source water assessments will provide a rational basis for future source water protection activities in wellhead and watershed areas because the source water assessments will identify the most significant threats of contamination to the source of public drinking water.

One of the underlying principals of the Source Water Assessment Program is to maximize use of existing information. As part of the source water assessment process, information related to wellhead protection efforts will be reviewed and utilized whenever possible. The Wellhead Protection Program includes developing a specific management plan for protecting the ground water resource. This may require a detailed delineation to determine where the ground water is coming from within an aquifer. The management plan may also include an inventory of possible sources of contamination that could affect the water quality of the ground water resource. The source water assessments will build upon the delineations and contaminant inventories that were completed for public water systems under the Wellhead Protection Program.

Get Involved with Source Water Protection in Your Wellhead Area

The support and involvement of public water suppliers is vital to effective protection of public drinking water supplies. The DOH is encouraging local government, public water suppliers and local, state and federal agencies and groups that work with them to become involved in source water protection. You can become involved with source water protection in your wellhead area by working with your local health department. Small public water systems can receive technical advice from various sources, including the New York Rural Water Association. You can contact the New York Rural Water Association at http://www.nyruralwater.org/technical_assistance/source-water-protection.cfm, or by contacting Mr. Steve Winkley at 1-888-NYRURAL.

For More Information:

Center for Environmental Health
Bureau of Water Supply Protection
Empire State Plaza-Corning Tower, Room 1110
Albany, New York 12237