Step 1: Tips for Successful SWP Steering Committees

Of the five steps of Source Water Protection, formation of a good Steering Committee is probably one of the toughest hurdles, and yet, is probably the most critical to success.

The tendency of many water systems, managers, and Boards may be to try to complete the SWP Plan on their own without any "outsiders." While this may seem easier at first, don't fall into this trap: it could doom your efforts to implement your Source Water Protection Plan down the road before you even get started. Getting early "buy in" can be the difference between success and failure.

While it is completely understandable that some may feel getting others involved may introduce an unknown, or allow the process to "get out of control," and be outside the comfort zone, this would be a mistake.

There is good reason why developing a committee with a good cross section of representatives should be viewed as more than just a DEP suggestion. There is a strong basis of case studies that source water protection programs with a diverse steering committee are the most successful, especially for long term projects.

Project sustainability:

Even if some Committee members change, there are a few people that remain to teach the new members about the history, goals, and progress of the project.

Workload distribution:

Water systems are often already overloaded with the 24 X 7 nature of system work. A strong Source Water Protection Steering Committee allows the work load to be divided so that one or two people are not stuck doing all the work. Shared work load becomes even more important with implementation of the management plan.


A diverse Committee introduces a variety of viewpoints and novel approaches to protection.

It also allows for a "subject matter expert" to weigh in as ideas are under discussion that may impact various constituencies in the community.

It is better to have a representative from a segment of the community that may be impacted by SWP management strategies at the table early on so that they have an opportunity to give input and develop a level of trust about the shared goal of clean drinking water and how their group can assist. In addition, it provides greater access to needed resources.

For example, you may not have an interest in community education, or a background in teaching others, or conducting community training. An educator or retired teacher would find this a relatively easy task.

If you are a very small water system that is privately owned, you may feel your options to form a Committee are very limited. Don't let this stop you. There is nothing wrong with hand-picking your Committee. Ask people you trust to support your efforts.

A strong recommendation is to ask the local municipality to get involved, since they have land use control, and are responsible for health, safety, and welfare of local residents. If you are unable to get a volunteer from the municipality, then at least set up an appointment to review your work with a representative so they are at least aware of the protection area.

Also, you should arrange at least a brief meeting with the local emergency management coordinator or volunteer fire department and share maps of your source water zones, so they become familiar with the area that recharges your well, spring or intake.

CONSIDER: Municipal involvement can be the difference between failure and Success.