Great Lakes Water Authority has developed voluntary Surface Water Intake Protection Plans (SWIPP) for three surface water intakes located in Lake Huron and the Detroit River.

The two Detroit River intakes are in urbanized areas with influences from the U.S. and Canada. The Lake Huron intake is situated further from industrial activities and urbanized areas but remains susceptible to the impacts of agricultural and stormwater runoff. While these intakes were designed to reduce the impacts of shoreline pollution, Great Lakes Water Authority recognizes that planning for protection from spills and land-based contaminants including stormwater runoff is imperative.

In 2015 Great Lakes Water Authority applied for the three Surface Water Intake Protection grants from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy for three surface water intakes: Lake Huron, Belle Isle, and Fighting Island. The money was utilized to develop a SWIPP for each intake. The three Great Lakes Water Authority SWIPPs were approved by the Department of Environmental Quality in March of 2016 and will be updated every six years. Much of the information to develop the plan was obtained from the U.S. EPA-mandated Source Water Assessments that were completed in 2004, with input from the SWIPP teams. SWIPP teams were created for each intake and included local utility member representatives, local health department representatives, the local fire department, U.S. Coast Guard, Canadian stakeholders, Great Lakes Water Authority employees, and watershed groups specific to each intake. The contaminant site inventory from the Source Water Assessments were updated in 2016 while developing the SWIPPs.

The SWIPPs delineate source water protection areas for intakes, identify potential contaminant sources, and describe management practices to protect source water. They also describe public education outreach activities, contingency plans, emergency response plans and the provision of additional monitoring equipment at the Belle Isle Intake. In addition, the SWIPP prompted an update of the inventory for Priority 1 sites and contacts. Priority 1 sites are those that store large quantities of potential contaminants which pose an increased risk due to the proximity to drinking water intakes. This inventory is set to be completed by summer 2020.

As part of the Lake Huron Plant SWIPP, Great Lakes Water Authority’s Public Education Outreach group reached out to the communities upstream that have the potential to negatively impact their Lake Huron Intake. This intake has moderately low susceptibility to contamination; however, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality suggested educating the public upstream of the intake about how they have the potential to impact drinking water in communities downstream. The education work group contacted soil conservation groups, drain commissions and local health departments for input, to share education materials and to collaborate on messaging about source water protection.

The voluntary creation and implementation of these SWIPPs drive progress for the Source Water Initiative’s second goal of having public water supply systems guided by up-to-date management strategies designed to protect source water.