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Frequently Asked Questions - Source Water and Assessment Protection

A sampling of the most frequently asked questions concerning SWAP is presented below. For more detailed information concerning SWAP and Colorado's SWAP program plan, you are encouraged to download the plan from this web site. Answers to additional FAQs are provided in Appendix C of the plan. If you still have questions about SWAP, feel free to call the WQCD with your questions.



Source Water Assessment and Protection (or SWAP) is a community-based approach to protecting drinking water sources from potential contamination. SWAP is a two-phased program consisting of an initial assessment phase, in which the susceptibility of a public water supply or system (PWS) to potential sources of contamination is evaluated. The assessment phase is followed by the protection phase, in which the public drinking water system and interested community stakeholders utilize the assessment results to develop a plan to protect the drinking water source from potential contamination.

SWAP emerged from the 1996 amendments to the federal Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), the law that protects our nation's drinking water supplies. Under these amendments, every state is required to develop a SWAP program to assess the possible threat that potential sources of contamination pose to their public drinking water sources. The program must be approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Yes, Colorado now has an approved SWAP program plan. EPA approved Colorado's program plan in February 2000. Colorado's SWAP program focuses on five areas:


  1. Public Participation
  2. Delineation of Source Water Assessment Areas
  3. Contaminant Inventory
  4. Susceptibility Analysis
  5. Report Assessment Results

The SDWA amendments of 1996 mandate that the State of Colorado must complete the assessment phase of the program for all public drinking water supplies (PWSs). As a result, participation in the assessment phase by PWSs and community stakeholders is voluntary. Likewise, participation of the PWS and stakeholders in the protection phase of the program will be voluntary.

The Water Quality Control Division (WQCD) has lead responsibility for seeing that the assessments for all PWSs in the state are completed within the mandated time frames and that the results of the assessments are made public. It is anticipated that the larger PWSs will choose to undertake a large portion of the assessment themselves.


Smaller PWSs, which generally have more problems and fewer resources, will need assistance, which the State is willing to provide. The WQCD will look to contract with organizations familiar with the SWAP process in achieving the various elements of the program. Where there is little or no interest expressed by the PWS, the WQCD will arrange to have their assessments completed by the contractors
using available information.

The best way to become involved is to call your public water supplier and ask how you can become involved in their SWAP assessment. The PWS is encouraged to put together a team of individuals and groups who can be expected to participate in the assessment and protection phases. Efforts to attract citizen and stakeholder interest and involvement should target entities with a direct or indirect interest in drinking water protection. Membership on local SWAP committees should reach out to include groups such as: citizens and water consumers, water providers, watershed groups, local elected/appointed officials, landowners, public health agencies, business owners, and civic/church/senior citizen groups.

Funding to cover the assessments for surface water systems will be available from a one-time SWAP set aside fund. The State is also looking to utilize annual set aside funds from the Wellhead Protection (WHP) program to address assessments for ground water systems. The State hopes to leverage these funds with in-kind services or cash contributions from the PWSs.

With respect to the assessments, it is advantageous for the PWS to participate in conducting the assessment to assure the proper dissemination of information to their customers, and so that they can answer customer's questions concerning the assessment results.


There are financial incentives for developing protection plans, including an opportunity for the PWS to qualify for waivers from particular types of sampling and testing, and to reduce future water treatment or remediation costs, by taking a preventative approach rather than a corrective approach.


Protection plans also provide a possible means for smart growth management, especially if the community source water areas are to be taken into consideration when planning for future development.


Inquiries and/or comments on the Colorado Source Water Assessment & Protection Program should be directed to:


Colorado Dept. of Public Health and Environment
Water Quality Control Division