The Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) started the Public Water Supply Assistance Program (PWSAP) in fall 2012 to assist certain small public water supply systems in meeting SRBC regulatory requirements. In addition to targeted system-specific assistance, SRBC is also providing general outreach and education on SRBC’s regulatory requirements and training on aquifer testing plan preparation to specific public water supply systems.
In particular, with this assistance program, SRBC is focusing on smaller, municipal systems that need to either renew their older, expiring SRBC groundwater withdrawal approvals or apply for withdrawal from new groundwater sources. This assistance will help such systems be better aware of current SRBC standards and requirements, which in turn will make the application process more efficient for project sponsors.
The PWSAP, which is based on voluntary participation and is free of charge to eligible systems that request assistance, is made possible by a grant from the Pa. Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP).
Initially, SRBC is focusing its assistance efforts on small systems that wish to:
SRBC identified the systems that fall into these categories and informed them of the assistance program so they can decide if they want to be considered for this voluntary, no-cost assistance.
When SRBC first began regulating and approving groundwater withdrawals in 1978, the regulatory standards and requirements were very different than they are today. As scientific methods for assessing and protecting groundwater resources evolved, as did overall water resource management approaches, SRBC likewise adopted more protective standards for evaluating and regulating groundwater withdrawals, including requiring comprehensive, constant-rate aquifer tests to provide the necessary project-specific data to evaluate the proposed withdrawal.
As these groundwater approvals expire, including approvals for local municipal systems, applications for renewals and/or new groundwater sources are required. Given the significant changes to SRBC's groundwater withdrawal regulations since 1978 and changes to the current standards for evaluating groundwater withdrawals, SRBC understands the challenges facing public water supply systems seeking renewal of groundwater withdrawal approvals. The renewal applications that SRBC has received to date reveal that many small public water supply systems are unaware of the current regulatory requirements and unprepared for making applications. This often results in incomplete applications that delay SRBC’s reviews, increases costs for the public water supply, as well as other issues.
For that reason, SRBC is offering upfront education, training and technical assistance on its regulatory requirements, methods for assessing local groundwater availability and other issues such as those related to pre-regulation or “grandfathered” sources. This assistance will better prepare the small systems for renewing their existing SRBC approvals or seeking new water supply sources.
In general, SRBC will help participating systems in the areas of data collection methods, procedures and planning related to its aquifer testing process and its application process for renewing expiring approvals or adding new water supply sources.
SRBC will work with the selected systems to develop system-specific action plans as guidance through SRBC’s permitting process. SRBC’s assistance for improving applications may include:
Because the grant funding expires at the end of August 2013, interested systems are encouraged to contact SRBC as soon as possible to determine eligibility. The number of systems selected will be based on available funding and interest in the program. Additionally, SRBC is coordinating with the PADEP and will consider public drinking water systems that have been identified by PADEP as needing technical, managerial and financial capability assistance through the existing PADEP Capability Enhancement Program.
Depending upon the level of interest, SRBC plans to seek additional funding to continue this program beyond 2013 so it can continue providing the technical assistance and training.
A knowledgeable, competent consultant will be needed to prepare and submit an aquifer testing plan(s) or application(s). This assistance program is not intended to replace or eliminate the need for appropriate consulting services, nor will SRBC use the funds to waive regulatory fees or cover consulting or contractor costs.
Contact SRBC: Michael Appleby, P.G., Hydrogeologist, (717) 238-0423, ext. 1208, firstname.lastname@example.org