Program Year: Two

Client: Water Quality Division (Department of Environmental Quality)

State-identified Need: A better mechanism for determining where and with whom (which landowners) to focus resources and assistance that will best support upstream provision of clean water for public water supply areas.

Project Summary: Create a GIS-based tool to identify healthy lands within the watershed most important for conservation of water quality as well as impaired lands within the watershed where restoration efforts will protect water quality.

Methodology: Project partners worked with a technical advisory team to develop, evaluate and weight criteria for each of three goals: land conservation prioritization for drinking water protection, land restoration prioritization for drinking water protection, and land prioritization for habitat conservation opportunities. Project partners and the technical team identified, collected, and refined more than 40 data layers needed to assess and illustrate these criteria

Uses: The resulting landscape analysis tool can be used in several ways besides its primary purpose of showing where communities should prioritize investments of limited resources in order to meet the goals of source water protection and habitat conservation. These include:

  • Voluntary land conservation and restoration — Land conservation specialists can review the maps and reach out to landowners to see if they are willing to sell or donate land that can be managed for water quality benefits and habitat conservation. Technical service providers can review the maps and offer landowners resources to help them employ best management practices on their lands.
  • Guidance for land use regulations — The GIS tool can inform local government planning and zoning decisions so that they better protect drinking water sources.
  • Prioritize pollution control efforts — The tool can be used to prioritize places to improve existing pollution controls and management practices to address risks to public health through drinking water, recreation and fish consumption.
  • Minimize risks from natural disasters — Data layers showing the flood zone and vulnerable soils identify some of the lands most vulnerable to natural disasters. Their locations may be useful to decision makers who identify priority areas, and plan for prevention, treatment needs, mitigation and/or alternative water sources.
  • Track water quality improvements — With some added features, the GIS tool's land use information, together with DEQ's existing monitoring data, could be used to track implementation and effectiveness of best management practices (BMPs) for source water protection, and point towards potential improvements.

"The project was a great opportunity to work with a diverse group of public and private stakeholders as part of the technical advisory team (TAT). Members of the TAT brought a range of expertise, perspectives, and priorities in environmental protection to the table. The cooperative efforts within TAT allowed exposure to a larger domain of GIS data/applications, and this gave our team the ability to apply new tools for developing specific drinking water protection actions in this watershed--- and others across the state"
- Sheree Stewart, Program Coordinator and Steve Aalbers, Drinking Water Protection GIS

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