Photo: Bryan Swistock, Penn State University
They formed the Triple Divide Coalition to bring together the county water supplies to communicate, seek grant funding, and improve overall efficiencies. Through the entire process county government leaders and agencies have been at the table cooperating with the common goal of protecting the county's water resources.
Source Water Protection Plans create hydro geologically-defined Source Water Protection Zones that can be used to protect water. The Potter County Triple Divide Coalition, along with other Public Water Supply Coalitions in North Central Pennsylvania, is seeking to raise the awareness and importance of these protection zones. They recently joined together to ask the PA Department of Environmental Protection to incorporate these zones into the Department's internal permitting software. The purpose is not to deny all permits in a Source Water Protection Zone, but rather to flag permits in these zones for extra consideration, and to develop and recommend Best Management Practices be used as appropriate in these sensitive public drinking water source areas. Tioga and Potter County are also the first counties in the state to implement an emergency management 911 call system, so that water operators are notified of any spills or accidents that occur in a source water protection zone.
Locally, Potter County has just passed a change to their Potter County Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance. The change states, if a project is proposed in a Source Water Protection Zone, the individual public water supply will be asked to respond to this question, "Does the proposed development provide adequate protective measures from contamination of the water source?" This process seeks to open communication between the applicant, the public water supply, and the planning office. This communication will identify, as a priority, the importance of protecting the public water supply sources in the community.
Potter County holds the headwaters for the Allegheny, Susquehanna, and Genesee Rivers in Pennsylvania. The leaders in the county recognize the importance of protecting water resources, have created and are implementing their source water protection plans, and the entire state of Pennsylvania will benefit because of their efforts.