Source Water Protection Planning
Protecting Our Drinking Water

This initiative accelerates the number of communities MDH is able to assist in the planning and implementation process. Planning and hydrogeology staff are assigned to seven source water protection planning districts that span Minnesota. They provide technical assistance and support to local source water protection committees, meeting with them on a regular basis to collaborate in plan development and implementation.

Preventing contamination of our drinking water sources has many benefits –

  • Reduces the need for new wells and related costs
  • Reduces the need for costly treatment systems
  • Protects our drinking water from potential future contaminants of emerging concern.
  • Avoids costly clean-up of groundwater pollution from inappropriate land uses
  • Reduces the risk that property owners may become responsible parties to contaminating a source of public drinking water

New funding from the Clean Water Fund accelerates the introduction of new communities into the source water protection plan process. MDH will be able to assist additional communities during the biennium due to increased technical assistance and resources (30 in FY 2010 and 60 in FY2011).

Our goal is to have every community water supply in the state engaged in source water protection planning by the year 2020. Currently, 413 of the 947 community water supplies that use groundwater wells are engaged in the source water (wellhead) protection program. Of that total, 281 have plans that have been approved by MDH, and 132 are in the process of developing a plan. The chart below shows the sharp increase in the number of communities that MDH has brought into the wellhead protection program since Clean Water funding has become available. The dashed line starting after 2010 shows the number of communities that MDH is projecting to be added through the year 2013. [show as Planning Information table]


MDH brings communities into the wellhead protection program under authority granted to it by the Minnesota Legislature. Wellhead protection plans are prepared under a formal process that includes an opportunity for the public to comment prior to MDH review. Public water suppliers are granted at least two years to as long as four years to prepare a wellhead protection plan and submit it to MDH. That is why there will be a lag in the rate at which wellhead protection plans are approved as shown by the lower line on the graph. However, the lines should cross in the year 2020 when all community water suppliers should have wellhead protection plans in place.

Unlike community water suppliers that use groundwater, the 24 systems that use surface water are not required to have a source water protection plan. However, MDH has collaborated with three surface water systems to develop plans endorsed by MDH. Another 21 surface water systems could voluntarily develop surface water intake protection plans.

Updated Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at 01:43PM