Watershed Inspection

SNEW’s Watershed Inspection Program: An Overview

The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) of 1974 and its amendments establish the basic framework for protecting the drinking water that is produced by public water systems and delivered to their customers.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) sets national standards for drinking water to safeguard this resource and protect the public health.

Drinking-water standards include on-going monitoring and reporting requirements.  SNEW’s watershed inspection program is a monitoring measure designed to protect SNEW water supplies and to comply with the SDWA and Connecticut Department of Public Health (CT DPH) drinking-water regulations.  An effective watershed inspection program is an integral part of source water protection and a multi-barrier approach to ensuring safe drinking water in SNEW’s system.

What is a drinking water watershed?

Definition: The area of land that drains by natural or man-made causes to a public drinking water supply intake.

A watershed is all of the land that drains to one particular place.  On a drinking-water watershed, the precipitation that falls onto the land drains toward a lake, river, stream or reservoir, whose waters are used to supply people with their drinking water. When you are driving along a road, and you see a sign that reads: “Entering Public Water Supply Watershed Area,” it alerts residents, motorists, public safety personnel, and hazardous material haulers to the fact that the land around them as well as the storm water drainage system for that roadway drain to a body of water that supplies people with drinking water.

Watershed Inspections: The Process

“A public water system using surface water (reservoir) as an active source of supply shall make a sanitary survey of the watershed to the intake at least annually. A report on the survey shall be submitted to the Connecticut Department of Public Health by March 1st each year covering the preceding calendar year.”

*Taken from The Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies (RCSA) Title 19: Public Health and Safety, Section 19-13-B102(b): Watershed survey.

Connecticut law requires public water systems to conduct watershed inspections.  Each year during SNEW’s annual sanitary survey, SNEW employees visit private properties within SNEW’s watershed areas.  The inspection is external, and homeowners or occupants do not have to be present although they can request to be notified beforehand if they wish.

How does the watershed inspection work?

Private properties are visited on a rotating basis.  At the beginning of each property visit, a SNEW employee rings the door bell and asks to speak with a homeowner, and explains the purpose of the visit.  Adult residents are asked a series of questions regarding occupancy, including septic maintenance history, landscaping practices (specifically fertilizer and pesticide usage),  the status of any underground oil tanks, the presence of farm animals and manure management practices, etc.

During the visit, the SNEW employee checks for issues that could pose water quality concerns and cause pollution of water resources downstream.  Although uncommon, the most frequently identified concerns include missing or poorly maintained sedimentation and erosion control measures at construction sites,  leachate breakout from failing or malfunctioning septic systems, wetland encroachments,  and  improper storage or disposal of hazardous materials.

What if SNEW finds a problem?

If a small problem is discovered in the course of SNEW’s inspection, the property owner is notified and given a reasonable time to correct the problem.  If a major problem is discovered, then depending upon the nature or origin of the problem, the property owner is encouraged to work with their Town’s officials, such as a health sanitarian, a Planning and Zoning officer, or an Inland Wetlands and Watercourse agent, who have the responsibility and authority to review and approve corrective actions for those issues within their domains and areas of expertise.

For more information, contact Customer Care.