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Source Water

Source Water - What Is It?

Source water is a term used to describe surface water (lakes, streams, rivers) or groundwater (aquifers, wells) that is used for drinking water.  As with any water, the watershed and recharge areas for source waters are important to the quality and quantity of drinking water.  The Hudson Valley region accounts for about 25% of the State’s public drinking water systems that draw from surface waters and about 50% of the State’s systems that draw from groundwater (excluding Nassau and Suffolk counties).

Source Water Protection

Clean water is essential for life.  Careful management of the drainage areas that feed these source waters is critical in order to ensure a dependable long term supply of high quality water to support economic, social and ecosystem health, stability and vitality. 

Communities hold a key role in source water protection.  Water is closely linked to land use decisions, and these land use decisions are made at the local level.  Protecting source water involves understanding what types of land uses and inputs are occurring, as well as development trends and patterns.  Local land use decisions impact water quality and quantity locally and regionally, impacting drinking water as well as ecosystem health and functions. 

Examples of source water protection tools include conducting a source watershed evaluation, including a gap analysis of local regulations, regular education and training workshops for key decision-makers and stakeholders, and creating a source water protection plan that includes long term funding and financing mechanisms. Because source water drainage areas frequently cover more than municipality, working on an intermunicipal or regional basis is typically more effective and efficient. 

Technical Assistance and Grants 

In partnership with the Water Resources Institute at Cornell University and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Hudson River Estuary Program is available to assist communities in the region to better understand their source water resources, proactively evaluate and identify source water protection gaps, and help prioritize next steps to improve the long term protection of their drinking water sources.

To learn more about available grant funding, technical assistance, and research opportunities related to source water protection, contact Elisa Chae at (845) 256-3178 or, or visit the Hudson River Estuary Program website at