A comparative analysis of source water protection policies and regulations of local governments in the Christina River Basin in Delaware and Pennsylvania

Miller, Kate E.
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University of Delaware
Benjamin Franklin is credited with saying "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Research has shown that this is certainly true when it comes to preserving the quality of public drinking water supplies. Source water protection is the active management and conservation of the sources of raw drinking water from both surface and groundwater sources. It was a major feature of the 1996 Amendments to the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act. Using the interstate Christina River Basin in Delaware and Pennsylvania as a case study, this research provides a comparative analysis of how the 58 local governments within the two states that share the basin compare in terms of direct and indirect legal protections for source water. The results of an original ordinance review and scoring matrix show that, despite differences in governance styles and state-level regulations, there is relative consistency and fairly high levels of local protections for source water in both states across the Christina Basin. This consistency is demonstrated across four basic categories: direct source water protection; natural resource protection; stormwater management; and education and accessibility. Delaware received an average score of 13.2 (out of 20 possible points), which is not statistically different from Pennsylvania's score of 13.0. Furthermore, an analysis of water quality trends shows that, generally speaking, improving local trends for total suspended solids (TSS), turbidity, and enterococcus across the Christina Basin seem to reflect the consistently high levels of protection for water resources throughout the basin.