SWIPPs to Enhance Protection of Our Drinking Water


High quality drinking water is a priority for the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA). Recognizing that quality begins with the source water used to produce our drinking water, GLWA has embarked on new efforts for continued protection of this valued resource. Surface Water Intake Protection Programs (SWIPPs) were developed for each of the three intakes in the Detroit River and Lake Huron that supply GLWA’s water treatment plants. These programs were approved by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) in March.
“The SWIPPs represent GLWA’s commitment to continued protection of the surface waters that feed the three intakes,” explains Mary Lynn Semegen, Water Quality Manager for GLWA. “It is a voluntary program that is an extension of the Source Water Assessment Programs previously conducted by the state.”
Each SWIPP enhances intake protection through emergency preparedness, water quality monitoring and public education. GLWA collaborated with wholesale customers and watershed groups to develop the programs. These same groups are implementing the initial SWIPPs and will continually update and refine them.
The two Detroit River intakes are located in urbanized areas with influences from the U.S. and Canadian sides. While these intakes were designed to reduce the impacts of shoreline pollution, protection from spills and land-based contaminants including stormwater runoff is imperative. The Lake Huron intake is located in a more pristine area but requires protection from agricultural and stormwater runoff.
Emergency preparedness is being strengthened in a variety of ways. The roles and duties of local units of government and water supply agencies are clearly defined in the SWIPPs and intake teams were created to manage the source water protection approaches. Source water protection areas were delineated for each intake and contaminant source inventories conducted that will be updated each year. All of this information is kept in a comprehensive Communication Plan that is updated by the intake team each year. Regular cross-agency coordination meetings and emergency response training exercises will be undertaken. Contingency plans were also developed for alternate water supplies.
“The Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change has been part of the SWIPP development process for the two Detroit intakes,” continues Semegen. “Ontario also has two water intakes along the Detroit River corridor. It’s important that we work together on planning and emergency response.”
On the U.S. side, many groups participated in program development. Staff from throughout the GLWA, Detroit Fire Department, Wayne County Department of Public Health, Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office, South Oakland County Water Authority, City of Dearborn, Clinton River Watershed Council, and Friends of the Rouge collaborated to create the SWIPPs.
Top photo caption: GLWA draws water from the Detroit River and Lake Huron to satisfy an average daily water demand of 476 million gallons. In the summer when demand increases, the volume of water used each day can reach 732 million gallons. Continued protection of these waters and the Great Lakes is vital to the region.
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