Friday, February 19, 2010

Source Water Protection: Implementation is the Key

One of the water indicators used in the State of the Environment Report was the number of water systems in Berks County with Source Water Protection Plans. These voluntary plans outline the area that contributes to a water supply, identifies potential sources of contamination within those protection areas, and develops management strategies for protecting a water system’s source water supply. It is important to note that the development of these plans is not the end of a process, it is only a beginning. If a plan just sits on a shelf and is not used, the water supply is not receiving the increased protection it needs. Implementation of the plan is where real protection occurs.

Luckily, the water systems in Berks County that have developed a source water protection plan have all taken that next step to implementation. The Reading Area Water Authority (RAWA) completed their source water protection plan for Lake Ontelaunee and Maiden Creek Watershed in 2007, and since then have been busy implementing various projects, including assisting in agricultural restoration projects, installing water supply area awareness signs throughout the Maiden Creek Watershed, supporting local educational efforts, and developing a water quality monitoring network.

One project RAWA started even before the completion of their source water protection plan is the reforestation of land around Lake Ontelaunee. For the last several years, RAWA has planted approximately 1,000 trees each year on their property around the lake. Forested areas are a key protecting a water supply such as Lake Ontelaunee. A recent survey by the Trust for Public Land found that the more forest cover there is in a watershed the lower the treatment costs for water suppliers drawing from surface water sources. Forested areas along waterbodies serve as buffers that filter sediment and nutrients out of stormwater.

However, you do not have to own several thousand acres directly adjacent to a water supply source to play a role in source water protection. Through stormwater, contaminants can be carried several miles to a water supply source. By planting and maintaining native trees and other vegetation on your property, you can play a role in protecting our county’s water quality. Planting or maintaining native plants serves a dual purpose of protecting water quality and providing wildlife habitat. If you are interested in learning more about protecting waterbodies on your property, the Conservancy can provide you with information and guidance.

Matt Bixler
Spotts, Stevens, and McCoy

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