Source Water Protection

Explore the interactive "WV Source Water Protection Map Viewer"

Drinking water comes from ground water (aquifers), streams, rivers, and lakes. Protecting these drinking water sources is key to sustaining safe drinking water supplies.

Protecting source water can reduce risks by preventing exposures to contaminated water. Drinking water utilities that meet the definition of a public water system are responsible for meeting the requirements of EPA and state drinking water programs under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). Protecting source water from contamination helps reduce treatment costs and may avoid or defer the need for complex treatment.

Learn more about protecting drinking water on this EPA website.

Source water protection activities - including land conservation, education & outreach, and stewardship - take place within "drinking water protection areas". Continue learning below.

What are drinking water protection areas?

The term "drinking water protection areas" is a term the partnership uses when discussing areas that are closest in proximity to the water intakes and wellheads that serve our community drinking water systems. They fit into one of three categories:

  • Wellhead Protection Area* (WHPA) - 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.

  • Zone of Critical Concern* (ZCC) - The area for a public surface water supply that is comprised of a corridor along streams within a watershed that warrants more detailed scrutiny due to its proximity to the surface water intake and the intake's susceptibility to potential contaminants within that corridor. The zone of critical concern is determined using a mathematical model that accounts for stream flows, gradient and area topography. The length of the zone of critical concern is based on a five-hour time-of-travel of water in the streams to the water intake, plus an additional one-fourth mile below the water intake. The width of the zone of critical concern is one thousand feet measured horizontally from each bank of the principal stream and five hundred feet measured horizontally from each bank of the tributaries draining into the principal stream.

  • Zone of Peripheral Concern** (ZPC) – ZPC for a public surface water supply source and for a public surface water influenced groundwater supply source is a corridor along streams within a watershed that warrants scrutiny due to its proximity to the surface water intake and the intake’s susceptibility to potential contaminants within that corridor. The ZPC is determined using a mathematical model that accounts for stream flows, gradient and area topography. The length of the ZPC is based on an additional five-hour time-of-travel of water in the streams beyond the perimeter of the ZCC, which creates a protection zone of ten (10) hours above the water intake. The width of the ZPC is one thousand (1,000) feet measured horizontally from each bank of the principal stream and five hundred (500) feet measured horizontally from each bank of the tributaries draining into the principal stream.

Explore the drinking water protection areas in the "WV Source Water Protection Map Viewer".


*- WV-DHHR Source Water Protection definitions**- WV-DEP Aboveground Storage Tank definition

What are Source Water Protection Plans?

After the 2014 Elk River Chemical spill, "community water systems" in West Virginia that serve more than 25 people were required to develop "Source Water Protection Plans" as part of Senate Bill 373. Those two terms refer to:

  • Community Water Systems - a public water system that supplies water to the same population year-round. (Explore the EPA Safe Drinking Water Information System for information on water systems in your area.)

  • Source Water Protection Plans - these plans identify contamination threats ("potential sources of significant contamination") and propose management strategies for mitigating the impacts of those threats on our community drinking water supplies.

You can read more about Source Water Protection Plans and the Senate Bill 373 legislation on this WV-DHHR website.

Where can I find my local source water protection plan?

In Jefferson & Berkeley Counties, WV, there are six water utilities that operate community water systems with source water protection plans: