Source Water Protection Planning (SWPP)

Source Water Protection Planning

Source: CCME, 2012

The Multi-Barrier Approach

Source water is any untreated water found in rivers, lakes and underground aquifers which is used for the supply of raw water for municipal water treatment systems for human consumption. Source water protection is the actions taken to protect that raw source of municipal drinking water from contamination and is the first step in a multi-barrier approach. The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) defines the multi-barrier approach as “an integrated system of procedures, processes, and tools that collectively prevent or reduce the contamination of drinking water from source to tap in order to reduce risks to public health” (2002). The other barriers in this approach include effective treatment, maintenance of the water distribution system, monitoring and emergency response planning.

Source Water Protection

As the first step in the multi-barrier approach, source water protection is an essential part of any strategy to prevent or reduce contamination risks to a drinking water system. An inventory of the source water for communities in our watershed area was conducted. This inventory allows us to have a better understanding of source water protection concerns and risks and identifies which communities continue to operate their own municipal water systems. Many communities in our area have switched to pipeline water sources, and this inventory will also help us to identify opportunities to work with those communities to decommission abandoned water sources.

The next step in this project is to identify communities that continue to operate their own municipal water systems that would be interested in participating in source water protection planning. This planning process would bring together community members and technical experts to identify risks to the community’s source water and then identify key actions to help to mitigate or address these risks. Working with the South Saskatchewan River Watershed Stewards, the community will work through a five-stage planning model based on the work of Dr. Robert Patrick from the University of Saskatchewan.

Source Water Protection Planning Process

The five stages are:

1. Establish a steering committee – approximately 8 to 12 participants that consist of a mix of local representatives and water management experts that will be accountable to the community, hold meetings, decide rules of membership, etc.

2. Source Water Assessment – collection of background information on water sources, delineation of the source water assessment area, inventory of land use, identification of existing and potential contamination events, and an assessment of the risks to the drinking water sources from the identified contamination events.

3. Risk Management Actions – information gathered during the source water assessment stage facilitates the development of risk management actions that can mitigate or manage the risks to the drinking water source from the identified contaminants. These risk management actions will include structural (infrastructure such as pipes, pumps, retention ponds, retaining walls, stream bank restoration, etc.) and non-structural (education programs, signage, buffer zone protection, land acquisition, etc.) actions. The identified contaminants and risk management actions together will form
the Source Water Protection Plan.

4. Plan Implementation – working to implement the actions that will reduce or manage the risk of contamination of the drinking water source.

5. Review SWP Plan.

Contact us

If your community is interested in working through the 5 step process above, with support from the South Saskatchewan River Watershed Stewards, please contact Kerry at 306-460-4987 or for more information.


Picture Source:

CCME (2012),, accessed October 29, 2019