A key aspect of managing demand for water is ensuring populations use their existing water supplies as efficiently as possible before plans are made to expand supplies through financially costly water transfer schemes. However, ensuring access to good quality water can be a challenge due to economic as well as domestic activities impacting the quality of surface and groundwater supplies.
To avoid having to develop new water supplies due to contamination utilities are turning to water source protection that involves the protection of surface water sources and the protection of groundwater sources from contamination of any kind.
Water source protection can involve a variety of measures including regulations on activities surrounding reservoirs and wellfields or economic incentives to encourage certain types of activities for example paying farmers to reduce or cease the use of fertilizer near the source of drinking water.
Massachusetts’ source protection grant
In Massachusetts the state offers a Drinking Water Supply Protection (DWSP) 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
- Groundwater recharge
Under the DWSP Grant applicants can receive up to $350,000 in funding to implement plans to protect existing or new wells, as well as surface drinking water supply systems including reservoirs. The funds can even be used to purchase watershed land located in Department of Environmental Protection-approved drinking water supply land to ensure the health and wellbeing of Massachusetts’ residents.
Governments need to ensure local water utilities have the financial resources to adequately protect water supplies before costly taxpayer-funded infrastructure plans are made to develop alternative supplies.
*Robert C. Brears is the author of Urban Water Security (Wiley). Urban Water Security argues that, with climate change and rapid urbanization, cities need to transition from supply-side to demand-side management to achieve urban water security.