Whether your tap water comes from surface or ground water, all drinking water
sources are vulnerable to a variety of contaminants from a variety of activities.
The origin of contaminants might be in your neighborhood or many miles away.
When rain falls, it picks up and carries away pollutants, depositing them into
lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal and even underground sources of drinking water.
Because we know these activities have the potential to contaminate the source of
our drinking water, we have created four major barriers to protect our source
water from contamination. Preventing pollution is critical to protecting drinking
water from contamination and reducing the need for costly treatment. Community
involvement and individual action are key to providing a safe supply of drinking
Risk Prevention Barrier
The best way to protect drinking water is to keep contaminants
from entering source water. Multiple federal, state, and local laws, programs and individual
actions help communities identify the sources of drinking water and potential
threats. This work enables communities to take appropriate steps to protect the
Risk Management Barrier
The public water system is the first line of defense to reduce or eliminate
contaminants in source water. The Safe Drinking Water Act, which regulates
these systems, develops standards and guidance to help them reach the goal of
providing safe and reliable drinking water. They must collect and treat water, hire
trained and qualified operators and have an emergency response plan in case of
natural disaster or terrorist attack.
Risk Monitoring and Compliance Barrier
Dealing effectively with risks to drinking water requires constant evaluation of the
water quality. Water is monitored at the source; at the treatment plant, after it has
been treated and disinfected; at the distribution system, which delivers water
through pumps and pipes to your home; and in some cases, at the consumers
tap. If systems have difficulty meeting regulations and providing safe, reliable
drinking water, assistance can be provided to help them. If all this fails,
enforcement action can be taken against the system.
Individual Action Barrier
Constant vigilance to protect water before it becomes your drinking water is
essential and involves all of us. An informed, involved and supportive public is
the foundation of drinking water protection. What we do in the watershed can
directly impact the quality of water that arrives at the treatment plant. The more
you know about drinking water, the better equipped you are to help protect it.
Source: USEPA Consider the Source: A Pocket Guide to Protecting Your