Drinking Water

The state of South Dakota began primary enforcement of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) in 1983. The South Dakota Drinking Water Program, part of DANR, develops and enforces the South Dakota Drinking Water Regulations that apply to public water systems in the state. Approximately 645 public water systems (PWS) currently exist in South Dakota.

Wellhead Protection
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Picture of a GW protection area sign

What is Wellhead Protection?


Having good quality, safe drinking water at a reasonable cost is something that most people take for granted, especially if their water comes from a public water supply system. To ensure that the water supply is safe, and to avoid costly treatment or relocation of their supply, the local community must be aware of the activities that could adversely impact their water source. One program designed to help communities address potential sources of contamination of their ground water is called wellhead protection. Wellhead protection involves the protection of ground water supplies by eliminating or controlling sources of pollution to the surface and sub-surface area surrounding a water well or wellfield.


The program emphasis is to delineate a "wellhead protection area" that defines the land area which contributes water to a well. This is the specific surface area the local community will choose to "protect". All potential contaminant sources are identified in the wellhead protection area. A partnership of private property owners, community representatives, government agencies and the public can work together to develop a management plan to minimize the risk of contamination from these sources.

A complete wellhead protection program also includes preparing contingency plans for water supply emergencies and developing new wellfield sites for future expansion or replacement of an existing wellfield should it be necessary. No wellhead protection program is complete without public input to guarantee an acceptable and effective wellhead protection program.

Why is Wellhead Protection needed in South Dakota?

Approximately 78% of all public water supplies in South Dakota obtain their drinking water from ground water. The majority of this water is produced from wells in shallow aquifers. Many of the shallow aquifer wells are less than 100 feet deep, and the majority of wells in these aquifers are vulnerable to contamination, according to a South Dakota Public Water Supply Vulnerability Study conducted by the South Dakota DANR Geological Survey.


A wellhead protection program provides a relatively inexpensive opportunity to protect a public water supply from potential contamination by managing known potential contaminant sources in and around the wellhead protection area. The program also sets in place a series of operating procedures should a water supply emergency arise by preparing contingency plans for the unexpected. An ounce of "wellhead protection" today will save $$$ in the future.

Development of Wellhead Protection Program in South Dakota

The South Dakota Centennial Environmental Protection Act of 1989 provided legislation for the establishment of the state Wellhead Protection Program. The Wellhead Protection Program was created to help protect public drinking water sources from contamination by encouraging local communities to develop management plans to ensure safe drinking water supplies. Preventing a problem before it starts is more cost-effective than cleaning up contaminated water or developing new water sources. The program is a voluntary one in which all public water supplies that use ground water are strongly encouraged to participate.


The South Dakota Wellhead Protection Program was approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1992 and addresses program items ranging from defining the land area which contributes water to your well or wellfield and identifying potential contaminant sources to planning for future expansion and water supply emergencies. The most critical step in any wellhead protection program is to obtain local support in establishing an effective wellhead protection program.

How can the SD DANR help your community?
The Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources is committed to helping communities establish a wellhead protection program by offering technical support and guidance. We would be happy to meet with your community to discuss how to develop a wellhead protection program and the benefits of such a plan. The Department has developed the South Dakota Wellhead Protection Guidelines which is a document on how to proceed in a step-by-step fashion to implement a wellhead protection program, South Dakota Wellhead Protection Guidelines WHPA Success Stories in South Dakota.  It is our pleasure to serve and work with communities in order to provide safe drinking water to the residents of South Dakota.

For more information on SD Wellhead Protection Program, please contact us at (605) 773-3296.


Evaluation of Risk to Public and Private Wells

How to evaluate risk to public and private wells, clicking here to get to the guidance document.