The Source Water Protection Program & How to Get Funding

Blog header

What Is a Source Water Protection Area?

A Source Water Protection Area is the surface and subsurface area surrounding a water well or wellfield supplying a public water system, through which contaminants are reasonably likely to move toward and reach such water well or wellfield within a 10-year time of travel.

Source Water Protection Areas are delineated by groundwater scientists. For traditional delineations, groundwater data such as aquifer characteristics, groundwater flow direction and pumping rates are used as input into hydrogeological models.

The contributing areas to the surface water intake are also delineated. In general, this is the refers to the surface area most likely to contribute contaminants to the drinking water source.

Source Water Protection Areas serve as the basis for subsequent risk analyses and management strategies that can be used to protect public water supply sources.

What Can Contaminate a Source Water Protection Area?

Contaminants in a Source Water Protection Area can be chemical, biological, or radiological. Such contaminants can come from a variety of sources, and many are very common in our daily lives.

Potential sources of contamination, include fertilizers, pesticides, or other chemicals that have been applied to land near the water. Concentrated feeding operations (large industrial animal farms), manufacturing operations, landfills, mines, pits, quarries and former gas stations and dry cleaners are also known contamination sites/sources.

When released into the environment, and under the right circumstances, contaminants can reach a public water supply intake.

Public water suppliers are required to test for a variety of contaminants to ensure their systems are providing safe water to the public. When a public supply is determined to be impacted by contaminants, the results can be severe and very expensive to address.

Creating a Source Water Protection Program?

The process for creating a source water protection program, also known as a wellhead protection program, usually starts with forming a planning or wellhead protection committee.

Protection programs also have certain “elements” that must be addressed to complete a program. There are several elements:

  • Establishing Roles and Responsibilities
  • Delineating your Wellhead Protection Area
  • Developing a Contaminant Source Inventory
  • Developing Management Strategies
  • Contingency Planning
  • Planning for New Wells
  • Education and Outreach

These elements are similar if you have a surface water intake.

Who Develops a Source Water Protection Program?

Professionals familiar with Source Water Protection team up with public water suppliers team to help them develop protection programs, comply with grant requirements, facilitate meetings, and prepare needed plans.

The process starts with forming a committee or team made up of a variety of community members and professionals. Team members often are chosen among municipal officials, water system operators, local fire, and health department staff, planning and zoning officials, school officials, business leaders and interested citizens.

Creating a Source Water Protection Program not only instills a sense of ownership of the public water supply, it encourages the local community to recognize that protecting your supply both worthwhile and necessary.

Protecting a public supply source is an important part of protecting the investments you have in your infrastructure. Replacing a contaminated water supply source, or needing to add treatment to reduce a contaminant, can be a very costly process.

Having a current Source Water Protection program gives communities much-needed bonus points for scoring on various Michigan Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (MDWSRF) grant applications.

What Should be included in a Stormwater Protection Program?

Plans for the Placement of Future Wells

There are many elements in a Stormwater Protection Program, but none is more important than finding placement of future wells. Finding/locating the right hydrogeology to sustain higher capacity pumping and conform to zoning and land use, is a challenge.

The plan for future wells gives communities a sense of relief when it unexpectedly needs additional water capacity or one of the wells is impacted by contamination. The plan enables communities to be able to act more quickly to get the capacity they need.

Public Participation

Engaging the public in the process of creating a Stormwater Protection Plan, and the need for ongoing education is pivotal for a successful SWPP. The public must be involved in the planning and implementation process. Having the public involved and educated is a way to help them own the plan so that they will want to help it succeed.

Emergency Contingency Plans

Backup plans are a big part of Stormwater Protection Program, providing alternative sources for drinking water in case of emergency such as well destruction or contamination.

Backup plans also give communities a plan to respond to potential natural and manmade events including hazardous material spills, vandalism, or power loss. Contingency plans are defined and written for short- or long-term water contamination or shortage emergences.

Management Plans

Management plan strategies for wellhead protection, include but are not limited to education, regulatory strategies like ordinances and non-regulatory strategies like participation in hazardous waste collection. These are actions that are taken to minimize the potential for contamination of the communities’ wells.

The plan should include a description of the local management program, identification of the partnerships or agreements, phasing of management controls and a timetable for program implementation.

Securing Funding for a Stormwater Protection Program

EGLE, with funding provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), offers Stormwater Protection Program monies. The funding has become a catalyst for communities to get involved in a wellhead protection program.


The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy through its Source Water Protection Program funds programs to protect clean water sources and educate the public about where their water originates and how best to ensure it remains healthy. In 2022, $436,000 in grants were awarded to Michigan public water systems for wellhead protection related activities.

Grant amounts are based on populations served and the number of wells in use.

The next round of grant applications for EGLE’s SWPP is expected to be available in May. Applicants must provide 50 percent matching funds for the projects, develop a water protection program team, and demonstrate long-term commitment to their source water protection programs. The time is now for communities to consider setting aside funds to support Wellhead Protection Programs.


There are no known loan sources for local governments available or associated with the Swellhead protection program.

How F&V Can Help

The stormwater and wellhead protection experts at Fleis & VandenBrink (F&V) are among the state leaders in developing effective, efficient, and EGLE-approved programs for dozens of communities. No other firm is more active in the Michigan wellhead protection program than F&V. In 2022, F&V assisted 10 of the 29 communities who received EGLE wellhead protection program grants

F&V environmental experts can help with all phases of your Source Water Protection Program, starting with grant application assistance, assembling the wellhead protection team, facilitating quarterly team meetings, compiling information, and putting a stormwater or wellhead protection plan together. We’ll also coordinate with EGLE on getting whatever information is needed and prepare and submit the wellhead protection plan to EGLE.

Create Your Stormwater Protection Program with Fleis & VandenBrink

Protecting Michigan’s public water supply is not getting easier. Population growth, and an abundance of changes in landscape, are making it more difficult to keep contaminants out of our public water supply. It’s time to proactively protect your drinking water supply!