Drinking water plan in the works
Lake Tahoe’s bistate regulatory authority is using funds from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop a comprehensive, basin-wide approach to protecting drinking water sources.
The idea has the support of water regulators and water providers alike.
“This is going to be a helpful tool for anyone reviewing environmental data and anyone planning a project in the basin,” said Lauri Kemper, chief of the Tahoe unit of the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board. “This is to look at drinking water sources in a comprehensive manner instead of looking at one little area at a time. It’s more of a watershed approach.”
A commitment from the 1997 Lake Tahoe Presidential Forum, the Lake Tahoe Source Water Protection Program is expected to be a model for interstate watersheds around the country to learn from. Under the Safe Water Drinking Act, all states are supposed to come up with similar plans. However, because two states comprise Tahoe’s watershed, EPA has provided funds to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to complete one plan for the entire basin.
The project will address both lake and groundwater sources.
One part of the program is a Source Water Inventory Map, a Geographic Information System database showing all of the drinking water sources in the basin.
The GIS product will show “buffer zones” around drinking water sources. When a project is proposed within those areas that may affect a well, groundwater plume or lake intake valve, project planners can be alerted.
Gasoline service stations, automobile repair shops, laundry facilities and other businesses have the potential of contaminating drinking water supplies. Even stormwater retention basins and erosion-control projects can affect a groundwater plume that a well draws from.
Rick Hydrick, manager of water operations for the South Tahoe Public Utility District, said the primary benefit of the plan is that water purveyor’s, such as STPUD, will have an opportunity to comment on projects that may impact their wells.
“I think it’s good TRPA wants an element in their project review where all water purveyors would have an opportunity to review projects that could harm their water quality,” he said. “We should be able to look at projects, ask questions and have some input in the process.”
A draft of the plan may be ready in October.
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