Source Water Protection

Protecting Our Source Waters

More than one million Northeastern Colorado residents rely on the Colorado-Big Thompson and Windy Gap projects for drinking water. Northern Water has a responsibility to provide high-quality water to those we serve, while also being good environmental stewards to protect water quality and the watersheds in which we operate. 

To fulfill these responsibilities, we are launching a Source Water Protection program, a pro-active approach to prevent pollution of our water sources. Additional benefits may include:

  • Financial - Preventing pollution is often less expensive than the costs of cleaning up contamination events or treating a degraded water supply.   
  • Environmental - Healthy watersheds can help to reduce the impacts of floods, fire and erosion. 
  • Social - A perception of poor water quality may discourage businesses and individuals from living or working in a community.  
Shadow Mountain Reservoir with Lake Granby in the background.

As we develop our strategic Source Water Protection program, we will continue to:  

  • Maintain partnerships with stakeholders to support forest health projects such as wildfire mitigation. 
  • Support aquatic nuisance species prevention programs in Grand and Larimer counties. 
  • Respond quickly to contaminant events such as natural disasters or HAZMAT spills near waterways. 

Source Water Protection in Colorado 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Safe Drinking Water Act was established in 1974 to protect public health by regulating public drinking water supplies. In 1996 the U.S. Congress amended the law, mandating that each state develop a Source Water Assessment program. In response, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment developed a non-regulatory Source Water Assessment and Protection (SWAP) program. 

The focus of Colorado’s nonregulatory SWAP program is stakeholder involvement, public education and community awareness. The iterative, two-phase program includes: 

  • Assessment - Determine drinking water sources for each public water system, identify potential contaminants and the susceptibility of the water sources to potential contamination. Assessment reports almost all public water systems in Colorado were released in 2004. 
  • Protection - Develop and implement source water protection plans for every public water system in Colorado. Components of a SWAP include: delineating a source water protection area; creating an inventory of potential contaminant sources; and reducing pollution risks with best management practices. Developing a SWAP is voluntary and should be done at the local level.