New Well Head Protection Signs in Your Community

In the upcoming months, El Pasoans will notice new signs mounted on the fencing or posted on the property near El Paso Water Utilities (EPWU) water wells. Signs like the one shown below will designate wellhead protection areas which serve as an important notification and fortification around drinking water wells to protect underground water supplies.

A ground water protection area is a designated surface and subsurface area within approximately a one quarter mile radius surrounding any public water supply well, or well field. Business, industry and residential features (buildings, storage tanks, warehouses, etc…) are inventoried within these areas for potentially hazardous materials that could possibly be susceptible to leaks or spills. The main purpose of this program is to promote the public awareness of the need for the prevention of any dumping of chemicals or other materials, which could eventually lead to the contamination of the ground water supply. This information gathering and signage process is known as a Wellhead Protection Program (WHPP).

Wellhead protection programs are developed to protect public groundwater supplies from contamination, ensure public health, and prevent the need for expensive treatment of groundwater supplies to comply with drinking water standards. The underlying principle of a wellhead protection program is that it is less costly to protect a groundwater supply than to restore water quality after it is compromised.

Wellhead protection programs have both monetary and non-monetary benefits. Monetary benefits can be demonstrated by the avoided-cost ratio, which compares the cost of treating a contaminated water supply to the cost of a wellhead protection program. Wellhead protection is almost always less costly than responding to a contaminated water supply. (Mark B. Williams and Bruce A Fenske; AWWARF Project #2778, "Demonstrating Benefits of Wellhead Protection Programs.")

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) provides guidelines and criteria for the WHPP and allows the community to take an active role in preserving ground water quality. In El Paso, senior citizen volunteers inventory and verify potential sources of possible contaminants within the protection areas once every three to five years.

Please refer to the table of potential sources and transit routes for contamination of ground water supplies exhibited at the end of this article. Presently there are approximately 200 WHPP areas located throughout El Paso, similar in appearance to the well facilities building shown above.

The following map shows the general location of EPWU’s high capacity wells.

Please call our 24-Hour Hotline (shown below) if you witness any spills or dumping of potentially hazardous materials in the vicinity of these WHPP signs.

   

24-Hour Hotline
594-5610

  • Recorded message provides a selection of contacts, depending on spill severity.(Toxic, liquid spills vs. dry trash)
  • Report illegal dumping and/or hazardous spills in wellhead protection areas.
  • Message is recorded in English and Spanish.




Potential Sources of Ground Water Contamination and Potential Contaminant Transit Routes

  • Infiltration of polluted surface water
  • Land disposal of either solid or liquid wastes
  • Unprotected dumps
  • Animal feedlots
  • Fertilizers and pesticides
  • Accidental spills
  • Above ground storage tanks
  • Septic tanks, cesspools and privies
  • Unlined holding ponds and lagoons
  • Waste deposal in excavations
  • Leakage from underground storage tanks
  • Leakage from underground pipelines
  • Waste disposal in well excavations
  • Well disposal of wastes
  • Unprotected exploratory wells
  • Abandoned wells