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WWRC 97-05k
Wellhead Protection in Wyoming: An Overview


In 1986, Amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) established the Wellhead Protection (WHP) Program. Under these Amendments, each state was called upon to develop, and submit to EPA for approval, a plan that would protect ground water which supplies wells, well fields, springs, and tunnels that provide drinking water to the general public. The basic, minimum 'elements' that states must address and include in their WHP plans are also specified in the SDWA. To date, 45 states have developed and submitted state WHP plans to EPA for approval; 40 states have received EPA's approval of their plans. Of the EPA Region VII states, (WY, CO, MT, UT, ND & SD) Wyoming is the remaining state to submit and receive approval of its WHP plan. Wyoming's Wellhead Protection Program's Guidance Document represents Wyoming's Wellhead Protection (WHP) plan, and is intended to serve as a guideline to communities, Public Water Systems (PWSs), and others wishing to develop local WHP plans that will meet the minimum criteria for approval by EPA as set forth in the 1986 Amendments to the SDWA.

Prior to developing its WHP plan, in 1991 the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (WDEQ) sponsored public meetings throughout the state to measure the degree of public interest and support for wellhead protection, and to gather public input on the issues and options that Wyoming should consider when developing its own plan. Questionnaires completed by attendees at these meetings revealed that 100% of those who responded indicated that "...communities should protect their public drinking water supply wells...from contamination, "and 90% indicated that "A Wellhead Protection (WHP) Program should be established in their community."

The principal objective of a WHP plan is to prevent the contamination of groundwater resources that supply PWSs. As stated in 35-11-102 ('Policy & Purpose') of Wyoming's Environmental Quality Act (Title 35 ["Public Health & Safety"]; Chapter II [Environmental Quality]), the policy and purpose of the Act is ".... to enable the state to prevent, reduce and eliminate pollution.... " and ".... to plan the development, use, reclamation, preservation and enhancement of the .... water resources of the state". In recognition of this purpose, WDEQ has identified the importance of providing assistance to local governments to protect drinking water supplies as an important objective in its Strategic Plan. WDEQ has identified the development of a state Wellhead Protection Plan as its primary means to meet this objective; this document is intended to provide such assistance. Responsibility for the development and administration of the state's Wellhead Protection Plan will reside within the jurisdiction of the Department of Environmental Quality, Water Quality Division's (WDEQ/WQD) Groundwater Pollution Control (GPC) Program.

Wyoming's WHP plan adopts the systematic and logical proactive approach to protecting drinking water supplies that has been established under the Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments of 1986. Communities and PWSs may follow this plan to develop and implement efforts that are designed to protect drinking water supplies from contamination. Potentially significant financial benefits and cost avoidances may be realized through the development and implementation of local WHP plans in accordance with the criteria set forth in the Guidance Document. Implementation of Wellhead Protection Plans at the local level may benefit both the Farm Loan Program and the Wyoming Water Development Commission from the reduced need for emergency funding to replace contaminated wells or provide for water treatment facilities. As presented in the state's plan, there are no requirements, rules or regulations that impose the development or implementation of WHP plans on any PWS, either publicly or privately owned. Communities and their PWSs should weigh the benefits of developing and implementing WHP plans and proceed accordingly.

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