Source Water Protection

Protecting Drinking Water Starts at the Source


Protecting sources of drinking water is an effective way to reduce risks to public health, instill customer confidence, and control water treatment costs. Addressing water quality concerns at the source also has many other environmental and societal benefits that aren’t seen from treatment alone.

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Funding available for source water protection through RCPP

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) most recently announced $360 million in funding for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). This program encourages partnerships to address natural resource concerns related to agriculture at scale. NRCS pays about half of the overall costs, and the partners contribute (cash and in-kind) the other half.

With the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, at least 10% of NRCS conservation spending will go toward protecting drinking water sources. By participating in an RCPP, utilities can help assure that these funds have the most benefit possible to protecting source waters.

Utilities are both welcomed and encouraged to form partnerships with other interested stakeholders (such as conservation districts, agricultural groups, watershed groups, etc.) and apply for RCPP funding.

The current application period is now open and applications are due to NRCS on November 4, 2020. Application details from the most recent round of funding are available on NRCS’s website and can be used to help organize future applications. Because these are complex partnerships, utilities are encouraged to reach out to partners well before the application period to prepare.
Those interested in applying should consider:

  1. Reading about the current opportunity on, review NRCS's RCPP home page, and explore past RCPP awards.
  2. Reaching out to local partners (conservation districts, producer groups, watershed organizations, etc.) to help identify project scope, goals, and partner contributions.
  3. Contacting their NRCS state conservationist or their designated state NRCS RCPP coordinator to express their interest in applying for RCPP, ask for advice, and encourage early buy-in.
  4. Assuring that the lead partner (whichever organization will be submitting the application) has a Dun & Bradstreet number (D-U-N-S), is registered in the System for Award Management (SAM), has obtained USDA e-authentication level 2 access, and registers for the RCPP portal. Because it can take several weeks to complete these administrative steps, it is essential to complete them early.

Source Water Protection Justification Toolkit

This toolkit provides information for systems looking to implement source water protection measures for the first time and systems that want to modify or expand existing source water protection programs. As a supplement to this toolkit, a Microsoft PowerPoint template to present the initial business case for investing in source water protection to key decision-makers such as local officials, board of directors, and investors.

Farm Bill

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AWWA whiteboard animation describes 2018 Farm Bill provisions to protect drinking water sources

Source water protection programs take many forms, such as spill prevention and response planning, stakeholder education, coordination with upstream point source dischargers, and addressing upstream nonpoint sources. 

Although all methods of source water protection are important, two new AWWA resources are built to assist utilities in working with farm conservation programs, which due to the 2018 Farm Bill will now have a much greater reemphasis on source water protection, spending an astonishing $4 billion over the next 10 years to help protect sources of drinking water!


Protecting Drinking Water at the Source: Working with the USDA Forest Service

What does source water protection involve, and why is it important? The American Water Works Association (AWWA) with assistance from the Forest Service, has put together this brochure to provide a concise overview and suggest ways that utilities can partner with the USDA Forest Service to protect an invaluable natural asset.

Protecting Source Water - Information for Our Agricultural Partners

Why is source water protection important? Water utilities rely on sustainable sources of water that can be treated to provide reliable, high-quality drinking water. Section 2503 of the 2018 Agriculture Improvement Act (AIA) identifies, for the first time, source water protection as an explicit goal of agricultural conservation programs. This flyer provides talking points and a call to action for protecting water at the source.

Naegleria fowleri

Water utilities may see an increase in questions about Naegleria fowleri (nā-ˈglir-ē-ah fau̇(-ə)l er-ē) in the coming days, following the discovery of the commonly called "brain-eating amoeba" in potable water samples from a Texas water system.

It is important to remember you cannot get infected from drinking water contaminated with Naegleria fowleriNaegleria fowleri infects people when water containing the amoeba enters the body through the nose.

Learn more about CDC recommendations for protecting yourself from Naegleria fowleri.-contaminated water.

AWWA Reports

Managing Bromide Discharges from Upstream Sources

Communicating Source Water Protection Efforts in Consumer Confidence Reports

  • Outreach to and education of the general public are critical components of source water protection. This targeted literature review examined how utilities of all sizes are currently using their Consumer Confidence Reports to educate customers about source water protection needs and efforts.
  • The complementary guidance document is designed to help small- and medium-sized utilities more effectively communicate on source water protection in their CCRs.

Effect of Forest Cover on Drinking Water Treatment Costs

  • This report explores this relationship using results from a 2014 survey by AWWA that targeted utilities in forested ecoregions in the United States.

AWWA Standards 

You may also search decades of articles on this or other topics published in the Journal AWWA, Opflow and AWWA Water Science

AWWA Policy Statements

AWWA's policy statements are brief statements on protecting and improving water supply, water quality, management, and the interests of the public and the environment. They are written by consensus, subject to review and comment by AWWA committees, councils, and members. Because they represent AWWA's position on these matters, they are approved by the AWWA Executive Committee of the board of directors.

AWWA Advocacy Priorities

Technical Committee Engagement

AWWA members are recognized globally for their industry expertise and their generosity in sharing that expertise for a better world through better water. AWWA members participate in committee activities, developing conference programs, writing technical manuals, developing standards, creating educational content and contributing to AWWA publications. Committee members primarily interact through conference calls, emails, and face to face meetings at conferences and events. Access more information on volunteering for an AWWA committee.

The following committees are active in addressing source water protection issues:


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