Wellhead Protection Plan
The following explanation of a Wellhead Protection Program (WHPP)
is taken from the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality web
page, Wellhead Protection Newsletter 1. It explains the basic
purpose and background of WHPPs across the State.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandate for the
creation of State wellhead protection programs has existed since
1986. In the summer of 1989, Nebraska submitted its plan for
wellhead protection to EPA. The plan was approved by EPA in June
1991. Wellhead protection was incorporated into Nebraska 's
groundwater standards (Title 118) in September 1991. Agricultural
Chemical Containment Regulations (Title 198, February 1994) and
Livestock Waste Regulations (Title 130, July 1995) now include
wellhead protection provisions.
The Nebraska WHPP is intended to prevent groundwater pollution which
could enter public water supply wells and make them unusable.
Nebraska ’s public water supplies include all systems regularly
supplying drinking water to 25 or more people or having 15 or more
service connections. This includes municipal water supplies, rural
water districts, and sanitary improvement districts; some self
supplied industries and institutions; publicly and privately owned
recreation facilities; and restaurants, hotels, service stations and
other public accommodations. About 60 percent of Nebraska ’s
population uses a public water supply as a primary drinking water
The groundwater pollution addressed by the WHPP includes all
human-caused contamination which is potentially harmful to human
health. The basic approach of Nebraska ’s WHPP is minimization of
potentially polluting activities on the land around public water
supply wells. The land which will be protected is known as a
Wellhead Protection Area (WHPA).
At any given time, about 10 percent of Nebraska ’s public water
suppliers must deal with the problem of one or more human-caused
contaminants in one or more of their wells. Most are eventually able
to drill new, safe wells. To continue delivering drinkable water,
some suppliers have had to provide bottled water, or even shut down
one or more of their wells. In several towns, local businesses have
been severely hurt by costly cleanups of hazardous pollutants. All
of these situations are costly and disruptive. The problem of
groundwater contaminants in public water supplies seems unending.
New problems are discovered about as rapidly as existing problems
It is clear that prevention of new groundwater contamination is the
only means by which the gradually increasing drain on the public
resources caused by this contamination can ever be reduced. This
realization has spread both nationally and internationally for the
same reasons as in Nebraska . The amendments to the Safe Drinking
Water Act passed by congress in 1986 require individual states to
develop preventive measures to protect public water supply wells
from human-caused groundwater contamination.
Wellhead protection activities will center on WHPAs, which are
drawn on maps as ground surface areas. However, WHPAs are
three-dimensional, including portions of the groundwater aquifer,
the unsaturated soil above the water table, and any surface water
passing near the public water supply well. The WHPA includes the
portion of each of these media through which human-caused
contamination could be reasonably expected to be drawn into the
public water supply well within the planned lifetime of the well.
For map drawing, this lifetime is assumed to be 20 years.
WHPA boundaries follow section lines or other visible landscape
features around the outside of the 20-year time-of-travel
Potential wellhead protection activities include:
- Analysis of existing groundwater field data
- Delineation of WHPAs
- Education of economic development entities (such as banks)
about wellhead protection
- Training of contaminant source inventory workers
- Contaminant source inventory
- Marking of WHPA boundaries
- Supplementary water testing in existing wells
- Hydrogeologic field investigations:
- Test drilling
- Test pumping
- Construction and sampling of groundwater monitoring
- Refinement of WHPAs
- Siting of new wells
- Contaminant source management:
- Zoning WHPAs to protect them from contaminant source
- Purchase of land or certain rights attached thereto
- Relocation of water supply wells or potential
- Legal defense of WHPA zoning
- Compensation for condemned property or other rights
On the state level, the Nebraska Wellhead Protection program is
administered by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality
(NDEQ) with major assistance from Nebraska Health and Human Services
(NHHS). These agencies are carrying out activities 1-4 listed above.
Public water suppliers will play a large role in wellhead
protection, starting with their choice of a local wellhead
protection option. No state authority exists with regard to most of
the actions (Activities 5-11) which would be necessary to prevent
groundwater contamination from affecting public water supply wells.
Therefore, such actions will probably have to be taken by local
governments as they are needed.
For technical help with wellhead protection, public water suppliers
can turn to NDEQ, NHHS, the Nebraska Rural Water Association, and
several other institutions. These include the State Fire Marshal's
office, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UN-L) Geology and
Engineering departments, the Conservation and Survey Division of
UN-L, the UN-L Water Center , Cooperative Extension, the United
States Geological Survey, the Agricultural Research Service, the
Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Natural Resources
Districts, and the National Water Well Association.
For legal and institutional help, public water suppliers will be
able to enlist the aid of NHHS, the Natural Resources Districts, the
League of Nebraska Municipalities, the Nebraska Rural Water
Association, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency,
the Nebraska Natural Resources Commission, the Nebraska Department
of Economic Development, local financial institutions, and the EPA.