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E-Splash August 2012 - Source Water
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Illinois Section AWWA - E-Splash -  August  2012

Source Water Committee
Greg Swanson, Committee Member and Trustee

A distressed home owner contacted the Moline treatment plant with a water quality concern, shortly after the Fourth of July holiday. This worried water customer informed me that "we have checked all of the cold water faucets in our home and found that the water flowing from them is not cold at all. In fact, the water is actually very warm. Is there something wrong with our plumbing or have you done something to the water?” I advised the water user that the Mississippi River is the source of our community’s water supply and that the river temperature had risen to 91 degrees F., due to the extreme summer weather we have been experiencing. The customer was quite surprised to learn that the source of their tap water is the Mississippi River.

Many Americans are unaware of the source of their tap water, and a surprising number still seem to believe that water simply flows magically from their faucets. Water utilities, on the other hand, must possess a well-developed understanding of their source water in order to achieve their mission. They must be knowledgeable of not only the source(s) of their supply, but also many other attributes of their source water, such as its potential yield in terms of volume, its water quality characteristics and potential sources of contamination that could jeopardize their water supply’s operation. AWWA’s G300 Source Water Protection Standard identifies source water characterization as one of six fundamental elements of a successful source water protection program. The G300 Standard provides well thought out guidance and resources relating to source water characterization and protection.

The need for each water utility to understand and protect its source water(s) has been highlighted by the extreme weather conditions we have experienced this summer. Our utility takes its water supply from the Upper Mississippi River (UMR), and the UMR watershed above our plant intake is approximately 88,000 square miles in size. The large size of this watershed is both a blessing and curse. We are certainly fortunate to have such an abundant supply of source water, especially during the recent drought. Thanks to the US Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) 9-foot channel project, the UMR has been transformed from a free-flowing river into a series of interconnected pools. As the UMR flows from the headwaters at Lake Itasca to the tip of Illinois, it passes through some twenty-seven UMR locks and dams that were constructed to support commercial navigation. The USACE locks and dams also benefit water utilities that rely on the UMR for source water, by increasing water retention and depth during low flow periods.

Variations in raw water quality are clearly one of several negative aspects associated with source water drawn from the large UMR watershed. The following table provides several examples of UMR source water variations encountered:








degrees F.





















It is of crucial importance that our water supply team be cognizant of these source water variations as we work to operate our treatment facility successfully and to plan for sustained regulatory compliance in the future.

Innumerable sources of natural and manmade contamination are another significant disadvantage of the large UMR watershed. Certain types of contamination, such as the presence of microbial contaminants and agricultural run-off, are ongoing and essentially impossible to control. Other contamination sources are potential in nature, subject to the success of prudent execution of human activities and control measures that protect our source water. The IEPA identified literally hundreds of potential sources of contamination in its source water assessment of the Illinois portion of the UMR watershed. Countless additional potential contamination sources exist in the portions of our watershed that are situated in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, which represent the majority of the land area of our watershed.

The size and complexity of our watershed highlights another fundamental facet of source water characterization - the need for ongoing engagement with various source water stakeholders. Other entities, in additional to water utilities, are interested in understanding and protecting water resources. This is true in regard to both surface water and groundwater and there is strength in numbers. In the case of our water supply, we have initiated partnerships with a variety of UMR stakeholders ranging from the UMR Basin Association (UMRBA) to local coal fired generating station. These partnerships have led us to a variety of source water protection resources that address critical concerns, such as hazardous spills preparedness and response, source water monitoring, and UMR advocacy. These stakeholder interactions have been enlightening and productive, but our efforts in this area have been limited by a lack of time and resources. That said, our utility remains committed to nurturing UMR stakeholder involvement and interactions to promote better understanding and protection of our source water.

Water utilities are encouraged to become familiar with the guidance available through AWWA’s G300 Source Water Protection Standard and the associated Operational Guide. These resources will assist water utilities in enhancing their efforts to protect one of their most valuable assets, their source water. Additionally, ISAWWA members are encouraged to bring source water protection ideas, concerns and successes to the attention of ISAWWA’s Source Water Protection Committee. Committee members will welcome your input and the opportunity to interact with you.


Source Water

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Documents relating to source water issues that the Illinois Section AWWA Source Water Committee would like to share. If you have a document you would like added, please send it to
Item Name Posted By Date Posted
NLRS Biennial Report Summary.pdf PDF (1.23 MB)  more ] Administration 10/9/2017
Source Water Committee Members October 6, 2014 CSV (2.45 KB)  more ] Administration 10/6/2014
Source Water Committee Strategic Plan 2014 DOCX (34.58 KB)  more ] Administration 10/3/2014
Fracking Fact Sheet from WEF PDF (1.54 MB)  more ] Administration 11/5/2013
Regional Drought Condition Report PWS July 24 20 PDF (342.75 KB)  more ] Administration 8/5/2012
Lawn to Lake - save the date PDF (260.63 KB) Administration 3/13/2012
2012 Homeowners Association Workshop PDF (342.63 KB) Administration 3/13/2012


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Splash Winter 2018 PDF (11.35 MB)  more ] Administration 2/8/2018
SPLASH Media Kit_2018 PDF (1.8 MB) Administration 11/13/2017
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SPLASH ADVERTISING_2015 PDF (2.12 MB) Administration 11/18/2014
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