Source Water Protection

One County’s Approach to Managing Resources in a Sustainable Manner

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In 2016, the Berks County Source Water Protection Program, in partnership with its member organizations, began development of a comprehensive source water protection plan for the entire County. Approximately 90% of Berks County lies within the Schuylkill River Watershed; while 10% drains to the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The Schuylkill River Watershed is the primary source of drinking water for the City of Reading (pop. 87,000) and the City of Philadelphia (pop. 1.5 million). Approximately 40% of the Schuylkill River watershed is located within Berks County, making the County the largest source water protection area for the Philadelphia Water Department.

Berks County has a population of over 400,000 residents and this program currently covers 266,000 residents in the County. The countywide SWP Plan was completed in 2017. The countywide SWP Program is the first of its kind, and has become a leading model for watershed protection through local and regional partnerships in Pennsylvania. The program’s partners recognized that actions and watershed protection implemented in Berks County directly improves water quality for downstream urban communities, including the entire Philadelphia metropolis.

This source water protection program and its partners embrace the “One Water” concept, expressing the principles of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM). IWRM incorporates a coordinated effort to plan, develop, protect, and manage natural resources in a sustainable manner. In this program, source water, stormwater, and waste water are all part of the same resource to be managed effectively. The benefits to working with the Berks County SWP Program include shared resources in public education, access to funding for Best Management Practices (BMPs), and leadership for coordinating the sustainable management of source water, stormwater, and wastewater.