Today's post comes to us from Tom Jacobus, Chair, Potomac River Basin Drinking Water Source Protection Partnership.
Ever wonder where the water that flows from your tap water comes from?
If you’re reading this, chances are you’re in the Potomac River basin and your water comes from the Potomac River.
Many people turn on their water without thinking about its source, but the members of the Potomac River Basin Drinking Water Source Protection Partnership—water suppliers and state and federal agencies—are committed to safeguarding those very sources.
While catastrophic spills of unknown materials, like the one that recently occurred in West Virginia’s Elk River, grab the headlines, the challenges that water suppliers wrestle with every day can be even more intractable.
Runoff from roads and highways, urban areas, and farm land eventually makes its way to the Potomac River. Runoff cannot simply be addressed by merely patching a hole in a tank. Runoff can contain sediments, nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizers that stimulate undesirable algal blooms, road salts that can damage aquatic ecosystems and corrode pipes, pathogens, pesticides, and other trace contaminants that are not easily removed from drinking water.
Water suppliers are committed to providing the highest quality water at the taps in your homes, offices, and schools. They employ a multi-barrier approach for protecting the safety of water consumed by the public. These barriers to contamination include using the latest knowledge and robust technologies at treatment plants and in distribution systems, but begin with protecting source waters.
Source water protection aims to prevent contaminants from entering the rivers and streams on which the public depends.
Source water protection safeguards public health, makes efficient use of limited financial resources, and has a positive impact on the environment as a whole. This makes the Potomac River cleaner and safer for everyone, not just the 4.5 million people that drink the water, but also those who want to swim, fish, and enjoy what the Nation’s River has to offer. It also benefits the animals and plants that call our streams home.
Collaborative efforts like that of the Potomac Drinking Water Source Protection Partnership are just one way to protect source waters in the basin. Cities, towns, and counties have an opportunity for immense impact on water quality. The practices recommended for source water protection are not all that different from those already being implemented by communities to meet environmental protection and pollution regulations, but they are designed to be upstream of an intake, surrounding a reservoir, or in a wellhead protection zone.
While not exhaustive of all possibilities, the list enumerates practices that Partnership members think would have significant benefits. Communities can use new technology for targeted application of road salts and alternative products that are less harmful to the environment, maintain buffers along streams to filter runoff from agricultural and urban land, and educate people about the fact that many of our actions, while they may not be in or along a stream, can affect water quality.
Learn more about protecting your drinking water source at www.PotomacDWSPP.org.
-Tom Jacobus, Chair of the Potomac River Basin Drinking Water Source Protection Partnership