What is a Public Water System and how does it affect you?

JACKSON, Wyo. — The groundwater in the Snake River Aquifer has been designated as a Sole Source Aquifer by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It supplies drinking water for nearly the entire population of Teton County, and no alternative drinking water sources are available if it becomes contaminated. A substantial body of evidence confirms our aquifer is being contaminated, and many Teton County public drinking water systems lack basic protections to keep the water safe.

What is a Public Water System?

A Public Water System (PWS) is a system that provides drinking water to 15 service connections or an average of 25 people per day for at least 60 days each year. Examples include the Town of Jackson municipal water supply, gas stations, schools, restaurants, etc.

Support water quality advocacy and action. Photo: Courtesy of Protect Our Water JH

How are Public Water Systems regulated?

Wyoming is the only state that has not asked the EPA for the authority to manage the public water supply program. Therefore, the EPA is responsible for implementing some regulatory portions of the Safe Drinking Water Act in Wyoming.

How are Public Water Systems protected?

The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) was passed by Congress in 1974, with amendments added in 1986 and 1996 to protect our drinking water. Under the SDWA, EPA sets the standards for drinking water quality and monitors states, local authorities, and water suppliers who enforce those standards.

The 1996 SDWA amendment provides communities with more information about protecting their drinking water sources from contamination. The amendments require states to create a Source Water Assessment Program for all public drinking water systems.

Wyoming is the only state that does not require Source Water Assessments. The Wyoming program is voluntary.

Teton County has 113 PWSs – more Public Water Systems than any other Wyoming county. Very few have current Source Water Assessments (SWA).

Does a lack of Source Water Assessments put Teton County’s Public Water Systems at risk?

Yes! SWAs are studies or reports that generate information about potential contaminant sources and the potential for drinking water systems to be impacted by these sources.
Now more than ever, with population growth and unprecedented visitor numbers in Teton County, we need every Public Water System to have a current Source Water Assessment.
Tell your county commissioners to take action and make Source Water Assessment completion a priority today. The time to protect our water is now!

You can also make an impact for water quality during the Old Bill’s Giving Season by supporting Protect Our Water Jackson Hole. Your gift enables us to continue our mission to protect and restore the surface waters and groundwater in Teton County. Give via Old Bill’s today!

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Stay tuned for our next article in this series!

Coming soon: Part 2 will answer questions like, “How do I know if a PWS has safe drinking water? ” and “Are private drinking water wells regulated?”.

You can always learn more at powjh.org. The time is now to protect our water.

About The Author

Sponsored by Protect Our Water Jackson Hole

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