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Sourcewater Protection Plan


What is it?

A Source Water Protection Plan provides strategic direction to protect the quality of municipal drinking water. A Source Water Protection Plan outlines the municipality’s objectives for their source water, evaluates current and potential threats, identifies gaps in knowledge, and develops strategies and action plans. Strategies and action plans address areas such as assessment and research needs and guidelines, emergency responses to contaminant spills or natural disasters, and land use management practices. A Source Water Protection plan provides direction for municipal staff, industry, landowners, and other stakeholders to implement source water protection best practices, plans, and policies, and ensures compliance with water quality regulations.

How can municipalities use it?

While a traditional Source Water Protection Plan is essentially a Drinking Water Safety Plan, more recent plans have included more of a watershed, biodiversity, and water quantity focus. Therefore a municipality can use a Source Water Protection Plan to integrate and coordinate many policies, including regional plans, municipal development plans, local area plans, development permit approvals, watershed management plans, and other regional and local planning requirements.

What are the advantages?

Source Water Protection Plans have the following advantages:

  • Provides direction to municipal staff on implementation of plans and policies that protect source water

  • Provides direction to industry and landowners on land use and stewardship practices that protect source water

  • Educates community members about our reliance on source water, and threats to its quality and quantity

  • Includes contingency planning for potential source water contamination

  • Keeping source water clean at the source is easier and less expensive than cleaning up contaminated water

What should you watch out for?

No tool is a silver bullet. There are some issues to be considered regarding Source Water Protection Plans:

  • May not broadly consider natural infrastructure contributions and opportunities

  • Must consider and relate to a broad range of policies across different levels of government that both directly and indirectly related to source water protection

  • Plans and policies must be successfully implemented to reach goals

  • Ongoing assessment and monitoring needed to understand threats and track success

How can it help maintain natural infrastructure?

A Source Water Protection Plan helps to maintain the natural infrastructure system by ensuring source water is not contaminated, as contaminated water could impact the health of ecosystems in the entire watershed. As well, strategies identified to target water quality in the plan, such as those involving recreation, land use, stewardship, education, and research priorities, help to protect, restore, and enhance the entire natural infrastructure system.


Guide to Source Water Protection Planning: Protecting Sources of Drinking Water in Alberta – Produced by the Alberta Water Council in 2020, this guide provides advice on how to protect drinking water sources through developing a Source

Water Protection (SWP) plan.

Calgary Source Water Protection Plan, DRAFT - Source water protection goals and actions form the backbone of this Plan. These flow from provincial direction, and key policy drivers, including public health, environmental stewardship, and cost-effective service delivery. The Plan provides a road map with a common direction and priorities, while synthesizing and building on existing data and initiatives. 

Natural Infrastructure: Investing in Forested Landscapes for Source Water Protection in the United States – Staff in water utilities, municipalities, businesses, and local conservation groups can use this reference and guidance document to advance important dialogue around investing in forests for source water protection in their watersheds and to guide early design and implementation efforts like convening stakeholders, identifying sources of finance, and prioritizing investments across the landscape. The guide can be particularly useful to source water newcomers as a primer on natural infrastructure.

Did we miss something?

If you know of a resource that should be on this list - or your municipality has a sample or case that should be here, please let us know!

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