Protecting the Source of Our Precious Water

Protecting the Source of Our Precious Water

In many locations around the world, ensuring access to good quality water can be a challenge due to a variety of activities impacting the quality of surface and groundwater supplies. To avoid having to develop new water supplies due to contamination a number of jurisdictions are turning to a variety of water source protection methods.

By Robert C. Brears*

Vienna constitutionally protecting its water

Vienna is the first city in the world to constitutionally protect its drinking water. The Vienna Water Charter ensures the city does not expose water to hazards that impact water quality. To protect the sources of the city’s drinking water, the Forestry Office of the City of Vienna maintains source protection forests to ensure the soil remains healthy and able to filter and store rainwater efficiently.

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Massachusetts’ source protection grant

In Massachusetts, the state offers a Drinking Water Supply Protection Grant to public water systems and municipal water departments for the purchase of land or interests in land for protection of existing public drinking water supplies; protection of planned future public drinking water supplies; and groundwater recharge.

New York City working in partnership

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection’s comprehensive Long Term Watershed Protection Program involves working in partnership with many diverse stakeholder groups and local organizations. Since 1992, the Watershed Agricultural Program has promoted a non-regulatory, voluntary, incentive-based and farmer-led approach to controlling agricultural sources of pollution while supporting the economic viability of the watershed’s agricultural economy.

Philadelphia’s watershed approach

Philadelphia Water Department’s (PWD) Source Water Protection Program takes a watershed-wide approach to protecting the quality of the city’s drinking water sources with PWD working with upstream communities and organizations on a variety of initiatives including partnering with regional land trusts and conservancies to ensure forested lands are permanently protected for drinking water supply protection.

The take-out

The water source protection actions can involve regulations, economic incentives, and collaborative partnerships.

*Robert C. Brears is the author of  Urban Water Security  (Wiley),  The Green Economy and the Water-Energy-Food Nexus (Palgrave Macmillan),  Natural Resource Management and the Circular Economy   (Palgrave Macmillan),  Blue and Green Cities: The Role of Blue-Green Infrastructure in Managing Urban Water Resources   (Palgrave Macmillan), and  Climate Resilient Water Resources Management  (Palgrave Macmillan). He is Founder of Our Future WaterMitidaption, and Mark and Focus.

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