Wellhead Protection Program

Wellhead Protection Program

What is water?

To first understand what the Wellhead Protection Program is we need to define water and discuss where water comes from.  Water is an odorless, tasteless, colorless liquid made up of hydrogen and oxygen. Water is a necessary component of human survival and is a vital part of Michigan’s economy.  In fact, Michigan is home to approximately 20% of the Earth’s usable fresh water.  There are two types of water, groundwater and surface water.

  • GROUNDWATER – water that is underground in cracks and spaces in the soil, sand and rocks.
  • SURFACE WATER – water that is above the surface of the land (i.e. lakes, rivers, streams).

Water moves through a continuous cycle known as the Water Cycle.  The Water Cycle is the path that water takes through its various states as it moves throughout the atmosphere.  First a vapor becomes a liquid through condensation. Second, the liquid (rain, snow, sleet) falls to the ground through precipitation.  Third, the water either seeps into the ground, forming groundwater or it runs off the surface of the land, forming surface water.  Finally, the liquid converts back into vapor and evaporates up into the atmosphere through evaporation.

What is groundwater? Groundwater fills the small spaces between rock particles (sand, gravel, etc.) or cracks in solid rock. Rain, melting snow, or surface water becomes groundwater by seeping into the ground and filling these spaces. An aquifer is any type of geologic material, such as sand or sandstone, which can supply water to wells or springs.
Groundwater, which supplies wells, often comes from within a short distance (a few miles) of the well. How fast the groundwater moves depends on how much the well is pumped and what type of rock particles or bedrock it is moving through.In the United States, groundwater is the source of drinking water for half of the total population and 95% of the rural population. Groundwater is also used for raising livestock, agriculture, and industry. Within Michigan, approximately 50% of the population relies on groundwater to supply their drinking water needs. Community drinking water systems are at risk from many possible contamination sources and no community wants to face the loss of its drinking water.In an effort to protect this valuable resource, the State of Michigan established the Michigan Wellhead Protection Program (WHPP). This program is a voluntary program for communities that use groundwater to supply their wells. What is the Wellhead Protection Program?

First, it is important to determine the area which contributes groundwater to the public water wells. Communities will hire a consulting firm to do a thorough review of the groundwater that is supplying the drinking water wells. This study will determine how fast the groundwater is flowing and in what direction the groundwater is flowing. This area is called the Wellhead Protection Area (WHPA).  At the edge of this area, it would take ten years for contamination to reach the community wells. This is the area that communities will manage and protect. Steps to manage and protect this area include:

  1. ESTABLISH A TEAM – Identify people that play an important role in groundwater protection. Examples: managers, water superintendents, zoning administrators, teachers, fire department officials, business leaders, farmers and residents.
  2. CONTAMINANT SOURCE INVENTORY – Identify known and potential sites of contamination within the WHPA and include in a contaminant source inventory list and map.
  3. MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES – Provide mechanisms that will reduce the risk of contamination. Examples: plugging abandoned wells and implementing zoning ordinances.
  4. CONTINGENCY PLANNING – Develop a contingency plan in case of a water emergency.
  5. PLAN FOR NEW WELLS – Provide information on existing groundwater availability, the need for new wells and the vulnerability of the existing wells to contamination.
  6. PUBLIC EDUCATION – Educate the public about drinking water protection through brochures, placemats, presentations, newsletters and other educational activities.

Protect your Drinking Water: Lawn and Garden Maintenance WHAT IS THE MOST COMMON MISTAKE IN LAWN CARE?  We pamper our lawns and gardens. Over-application of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides waste money, destroy plants, and pollute water. Lawns that are mowed to short develop weak root systems and require frequent watering and maintenance. Removing grass clippings
starves the soil of beneficial nutrients and the organic matter necessary to prevent soil compaction. LAWN CARE TIPS:

Mowing high is cheaper and easier to maintain.  Keep your lawn three inches or higher and never cut off more than 1/3 of the blade each time you mow.
Taller grass……

  • gets more sun so it is better able to make its own food and does not need as much fertilizer
  • tolerates hot and dry conditions better
  • develops deeper roots, enabling it to reach deep into the soil for water
  • shades the soil and reduces evaporation
  • contains fewer weeds because it shades them out


  • Leaves and grass clippings are the best food for your lawn because they are a natural fertilizer rich in nutrients and organic matter.
  • Grass clippings on the lawn returns 60% of the nitrogen and 100% of the phosphorus to the soil.
  • Mulching leaves and grass clippings may mean that you won’t have to fertilize at all.


  • Check product labels and follow directions carefully.
  • Do not over-apply fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides or fungicides.
  • Fertilizers can pollute your drinking water.
  • If you fertilize right before it rains, the fertilizer won’t have time to soak into the soil and will run directly into surface waters. NEVER FERTILIZE BEFORE IT RAINS!


  • The best seed mix for Michigan will contain Kentucky bluegrass, fescues and perennial rye-grass. Kentucky bluegrass needs sun.
  • Native and drought-resistant plants and grasses will conserve water and require fewer pesticides and fertilizers.
  • For more information, contact the local County Conservation District.


  • If you have kept your lawn higher, you may not need to water it.
  • In the hot, dry summer, grass grows slowly and the blades turn brown, but the plants don’t die. If you can bear this stage, the grass will green after it rains.
  • If you choose to water the grass, one inch of water per week is the rule. Light, Frequent applications are best.

Protect Your Drinking Water: Plug Abandoned Wells

What is an abandoned well?  A well which:  has its use permanently discontinued; is in such disrepair that its continued use for obtaining groundwater is impractical; has been left uncompleted; is a threat to groundwater resources or may be a health or safety hazard.

Each year the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) receives reports of people, mostly children, falling into old wells.  Injury or death may result from unplugged abandoned wells.  Abandoned wells also act as conduits for contaminants to move from the surface into deeper aquifers.  Drinking water contamination has been caused by abandoned wells.  Deteriorated well casings or open, uncased boreholes allow movement of water between previously separated aquifers.  This can degrade water quality.  Abandoned wells have also been used for illegal dumping of waste.


✔ Search for water well drilling logs or old billing statements that show well depth and well location.
✔ Information can be found by contacting (a) the contractor who drilled or serviced the well, (b) the local health department, or (c) the MDEQ, Geological Survey Division in Lansing.
✔ If there are no records available for your well, look for the following:
➘ Pipes sticking out of the ground.                    
➘ Pipes sticking through walls or floors in the basement.
➘ Electrical switch boxes out in the yard.          
➘ Cement pits in and under sheds.
➘Old crock, brick or stone structures                  
➘ Windmills or old hand pumps
✔ Metal detectors may be used for locating buried wells:
➘ First, locate where the old water line exited the home or building.
➘ From this point, survey the ground with the metal detector moving away from the structure.
➘ Use a marker to designate the location of any readings you get.
➘ Well casings are typically 4 to 5 feet below grade and are located between 3 to 25 feet from your home.

Protect our Waterways: Keep Items out of Storm Drains

Storm drains are an important feature within your community because during heavy rainstorms, the drains reduce flooding in streets and neighborhoods by transporting large volumes of water into rivers quickly. Filters are not installed in the drains because they would delay the passage of water. Therefore, whatever goes down storm drains will end up in your waterways (rivers, streams, lakes, creeks and oceans). TIPS TO PROTECT OUR STORM DRAINS ✔ Keep garbage out of storm drains. Put litter in trash cans and dispose of toxic substances properly.
✔ Use a broom, not a hose to clean spills.
✔ Grass clippings clog storm drains and cause water to back up onto the streets. Sweep clippings back on your lawn.
✔ Never fertilize before it rains. When it rains, the fertilizer goes into storm drains and causes problems.
✔ Landscape to retain rain water.
➝ Create small berms and depressions in your garden to hold rain water.
➝ Border your lawn with deep-rooted flowers and shrubs that soak up water and reduce runoff.
✔ Landscape to prevent soil erosion.
✔ Pick up after your pet. Double bag the waste and put it in the trash (if your community allows) or flush it.

Protect Your Water: Conserve

Water conservation is the most cost effective and environmentally sound way to reduce our demand for water. Conserving water will allow us to extend our supply well into the future. Many states are already having water shortage issues. Since the 1970’s, virtually all communities in the United States have grown significantly, but the amount of water produced is the same. Consequently, it is important that we learn to conserve so that future generations will have the same fresh water that we have been blessed with to enjoy!

✔ Water your lawn only when it needs it. Step on your grass. If it springs back when you lift your foot, it doesn’t need to be watered.
✔ Do not run the hose while you are washing your car.
✔ Install water saving shower heads or flow restrictors.
✔ Avoid flushing the toilet unnecessarily. Dispose of tissue and other waste in the trash can instead!
✔ Use a broom instead of a hose to clean the driveways and sidewalks.
✔ Capture tap water. While you are waiting for warm water, catch the water coming out and use it to water house plants or your garden.
✔ Run only full loads in the washing machine and dishwasher.
✔ Shorten your showers.
✔ Fix leaky faucets and plumbing joints.
✔ Do not water the sidewalks, driveway or gutter.

Protect the Environment: Properly Dispose Pharmaceutical Drugs

A pharmaceutical drug, also called medicine, is any substance intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of disease.  If you flush prescriptions down the toilet, they will likely end up in the groundwater or surface water.


1ST — Remove unused, unneeded or expired prescription drugs from the original containers; crush solid medications or dissolve them in water.
2ND — Mix the prescription drugs with undesirable substances such as coffee grounds or cat litter (less appealing to pets & children).
3RD — Place them in a container (i.e. empty can, sealed bag) a put them in the trash.
4TH — Remove and destroy all identifying personal information (PRESCRIPTION LABEL) from the medication container.

For further information, please visit: www.epa.gov/ppcp


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