Focus On Water
Source Water Protection Program

What is Source Water Protection?

Source water refers to rivers, streams, lakes, reservoirs, springs, and groundwater that provide water to public drinking water supplies and private wells.

Protecting source water can reduce health risks by preventing exposures to contaminated water. Drinking water utilities that meet the definition of a public water system are responsible for meeting the requirements of the EPA and state drinking water programs under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). Protecting source water from contamination helps reduce treatment costs and may avoid or defer the need for complex treatment.

There are many additional benefits associated with source water protection, such as protecting water quality for wildlife and recreational use and protecting the availability and quantity of water supplies.

Contact Information

Source Water Protection Program Coordinator - (402) 471-9249

Wellhead Protection Program Coordinator - (402) 471-3376

Groundwater Section Supervisor - (402) 471-4982


The 1986 and 1996 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act respectively created the Wellhead Protection and Source Water Assessment Programs. Many Nebraska communities are currently protecting their drinking water source with the help and guidance of these existing programs. With the opportunities provided by the Source Water Protection Grant Program, Nebraska’s tradition as a national leader in drinking water protection is being taken to the next level. The state’s past and future success can be attributed to the cooperative working relationships shared between NDEE and the Nebraska Health and Human Services System, Nebraska Rural Water Association, the Natural Resources Districts, and many other stakeholders.

When Congress amended the Safe Drinking Water Act in 1996, one of the amendments created the Source Water Assessment Program (SWAP) for public drinking water protection. Throughout the country, all states developed a SWAP with the following basic components:

1. Delineate the source of each public drinking water system;

2. Identify potential contaminants in the source area;

3. Determine the drinking water source’s susceptibility or vulnerability to contamination; and

4. Make the assessments available to the public.

NDEE implemented their EPA approved program in cooperation with the Nebraska Health and Human Services System, Nebraska Rural Water Association, the natural resources districts, and numerous other stakeholders. A Source Water Assessment Program description was approved by EPA in 1999. All assessments were completed and distributed by August 2003; however, delineations continue to be updated as needed upon receipt of new information about public water supply systems. Beginning in FY2004, funds have been set aside each year from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund to finance source water protection projects statewide. Eventually these programs were split and defined into the Source Water Protection Program and the Wellhead Protection Program. These programs continue to work cooperatively with other local, state, and federal entities.

SWP Grants Program

2024 Invitation for Proposals

Approximately $150,000 per year is available to finance projects that protect public drinking water sources. Grant supported projects can include those that address drinking water quality, quantity, and/or education.

The types of projects that are eligible for funding include those that are associated with source water protection measures and will implement protection activities in existing source water protection areas, designated future source water protection areas, and in the associated communities. Community involvement and education on how to protect and improve drinking water sources are also central themes in these grants.

Purely educational projects without tangible action will be discouraged.

Projects will be expected to provide long-term benefits to drinking water quality and/or quantity and education. Types of projects that may be eligible for funding include only those that are directly associated with source water protection measures such as:

· Public education

· Water recycling and other conservation programs

· Support for pollution prevention

· Restoration and/or conservation of the source water protection area

· Development of a Wellhead Protection (WHPP), or Drinking Water Protection Management Plan (DWPMP)

· Water quality monitoring at critical points in protection areas

· Evaluations of agricultural practices and education on best management practices

· Installation of signs at boundaries of zones or protection areas

· Structures to divert contaminated runoff from a source

· Closure of abandoned wells

Rather than providing the grant to complete one task such as well abandonment, it is preferred that grants be provided to help establish and develop comprehensive local source water protection programs. Source water protection programs are ongoing, locally designed voluntary efforts to protect drinking water sources used by community water systems. Grants can be used to develop a Wellhead Protection Plan but only in conjunction with a source water protection program.

Ineligible activities include those related to operations and maintenance of drinking water systems and water treatment; land purchases for the sole purpose of developing Wellhead or Watershed Protection Plan; and projects requesting only personnel expenses.

Funding Priority

The prioritization criteria are designed to target those projects and activities that are more diverse, far reaching, and address a particular drinking water need in the State. For a current listing of prioritization criteria, please refer to the Invitation for Source Water Grant Proposals.

Selection Process

Project proposals are reviewed by staff at NDEE, Nebraska Extension, University of Nebraska Medical Center, University of Nebraska, Nebraska Association of Resources Districts, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Nebraska Rural Water Association, and potentially other individuals and organizations. Projects recommended by the reviewers are subject to final selection by the NDEE Source Water Protection Program Coordinator. Final recommendations will be forwarded to the Director of NDEE for approval. Items of consideration when selecting projects include:

· Does the project have a clear source water protection focus?

· Is commitment demonstrated by the water supplier and/or local government(s) to develop, implement, support, and sustain a local Source Water Protection program after funding is received?

· Do the proposed tasks address all categories of Source Water Protection: Quality, Quantity and Education?

Source Water Protection Grant Application Guide

Drinking Water Protection Management Plans (DWPMPs)

Drinking Water Protection Management Plans are an alternative to 9-element watershed management plans. These plans will be specific to Wellhead Protection Areas and/or defined future WHP areas and must develop implementable groundwater best management practices (BMPs). The purpose of this plan is to provide an analytic framework for managing efforts to restore and protect a community’s drinking water. With the approval of this plan by EPA, communities will be eligible to apply for Clean Water Act section 319 Nonpoint Source Program grants to assist in the implementations of these management practices. Detailed information about DWPMPs can be found on the Drinking Water Protection Management Plan Fact Sheet page.

Applicants that receive funding must adhere to EPA’s Subaward Policy, CFR §200.320, which states that procurement of services or supplies of more than $3,000 must obtain price or rate quotations from at least three qualified sources. It is highly recommended to obtain price or quotes prior to application submission to ensure costs remain within project budget and to expedite the start of project work. Learn about EPA’s Subaward Policy here: Grants Policy Issuance

Project areas include:

· Wellhead protection areas - groundwater systems,

· Officially designated future wellhead protection areas, and

· Populations served by the community Public Water Supply System.

Past Funded Projects

Links for Funded Project Partners