Drinking Water Source Protection Program (DWSP2) - October Newsletter

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
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Drinking Water Source Protection Program - October Newsletter

This issue's topics:

  • Technical Assistance Providers Available to Protect Your Drinking Water!
    • What can I expect?
  • Overlay Districts and Source Water Protection
    • What is an Overlay District?
    • Overlay Districts Protecting Source Water
    • How Does My Community Develop an Overlay Zone?
  • Overlay Districts in NY
  • Resources to Form an Overlay District

Technical Assistance Providers Available to Protect Your Drinking Water!

Have you been asking yourselves; how can I work with this program to protect my drinking water? Good news! The State is looking for communities interested in working with a technical assistance provider (TA provider) to develop and implement a DWSP2 plan for their source of drinking water. 
If you would like to work with a TA provider, head over to the DWSP2 webpage and complete an application. Once completed, submit the application by using the submit button at the bottom of the PDF. If anyone has any questions, reach out to the DWSP2 Team at source.water@dec.ny.gov.

What can I expect?

As a reminder, TA providers work with the community every step of the way, using the DWSP2 Framework, to develop a DWSP2 Plan specific to their community and drinking water source. TA providers will:
  • Help establish stakeholder workgroups. 
  • Assist with coordination of stakeholder workgroup meetings.
  • Gather water quality and/or water quantity data and assist with interpretation.
  • Gather information on potential contaminant sources.
  • Help identify and/or delineate source water protection areas.
  • Help prepare or update source water assessment maps.
  • Offer assistance creating protection areas for groundwater systems using advanced numerical modeling.
  • Aid with identifying implementation strategies to address current and future potential contaminant sources and land uses.
  • Assist in source water protection project implementation.
  • Offer guidance on funding sources to fund such projects.
  • Provide guidance on writing and maintaining a local drinking water source protection plan.

Overlay District and Source Water Protection

What is an Overlay District?

An overlay district is a special zoning area placed over the “base” zoning district(s) for the purpose of protecting a resource such as a waterbody or historic area, addressing a special problem, or to guide development within a special area. 
The overlay district essentially adds a layer of safeguards, standards or incentives that is above & beyond what has been established for the base zoning uses. The base zoning requirements still apply but overlay district standards apply in cases where the base and overlay requirements conflict.

Overlay Districts Protecting Source Water

In the case of waterbodies, an overlay district may be established to protect streams, wellheads, establish buffer areas, restrict activities within buffers, and more. The overlay zone is protecting water quality by setting additional standards for development and incorporating site-specific review procedures. Overlay districts, like other comprehensive zoning tools, aid with controlling or limiting non-point source pollution and future development.

Overlay Zoning Example

An example wellhead protection overlay (WP. - shown in blue) over “base” zoning districts. R - Residential, AG - Agriculture, C - Commercial, I - Industrial, NR - Natural Resource)

How Does My Community Develop an Overlay Zone?

The three items your community should consider when thinking about developing an overlay zone are:
  • Boundaries: The first step to developing an overlay zone is to map the zone’s boundaries. This could be done by looking at topographic maps, subwatershed maps, or hydrogeologic maps. A field investigation by an engineer or a hydrologist may be needed to determine the exact boundary. Think of this as the broader geographic area within which your standards (coming up next) will apply. 
  • Standards: Next, you need to develop standards that will reduce or mitigate adverse impacts that development or other activities might otherwise have on the waterbody. Such standards could be limitations on impervious surface cover, setbacks or buffers between a structure or land use and waterbody, restricting the use of hazardous materials, and erosion control. It could be beneficial to have a diverse committee of stakeholders when drafting standards such as:
    • Local Drinking Water Operator
    • Local Governing Board Representative
    • Municipal or Local Engineer
    • Zoning Board of Appeals Member
    • Environmental and Civic Groups
    • Comprehensive Plan Committee Member
    • Local Planning Board Member
    • Local Natural Resource Professors
    • Local Attorneys
    • Local Developers

If you have already been working on DWSP2, your current stakeholder group may check off many of these boxes! By having a diverse group, stakeholders can work through contentious issues, create standards that are acceptable not only to the group but the community at large, and set the foundation for easier administration (next step!).

  • Review Procedures: At this point, your diverse stakeholder group has reviewed and decided on an overlay boundary and standards to protect the waterbody. Before the overlay can be administered, it’s time to decide what kind of review process your overlay zone needs. Does the regulated activity, such as large-scale residential development, require a special review? Or something occurring throughout the overlay district at the local level, such as the use of fertilizer by homeowners? These are questions your stakeholder group will need to answer when deciding on what type of review procedure the standards in your overlay zone need.
You may not need to start from scratch though! Communities that have an existing review process for other zoning ordinances may be able to use this process for their new overlay zone. 
Visit Overlay Zoning to Protect Surface Waters to learn more about developing an overlay zone for source water protection. 

Overlay Districts in NY

So, you think a source water protection overlay district is exactly what your community needs but what would really help is to see an overlay district in action Luckily, municipalities across the state have been successfully utilizing overlay districts for many years. We summarized and linked to a few examples below.

Town of New Castle

In 2002, the Town established an Environmental Protection Overlay district that imposes special controls over land development located in areas that have been deemed environmentally sensitive within the Town. These regulations are designed to enhance the preservation and protection of wetlands as invaluable natural resources that provide for recharging of ground water supplies, erosion and pollution control, flood protection, and preserve wildlife habitat, recreational areas and open space. The regulations imposed by this overlay district are:
  • Increasing the size of protected wetland buffers.
  • Regulating small wetland areas below 1/10 of an acre.
  • Adopting a specific wetlands assessment model for performing wetlands functional analyses for all development projects that involve wetland impacts.
  • Restricting the number of wetland crossings.
  • Promoting more effective planning of lot layout and design.
  • Requiring a 2:1 mitigation replacement ratio for wetland and wetland buffer impacts caused by development.
The Town also has an Environmental Review Board that is governed by Chapter 137 (“Wetlands”) of the New Castle Town Code. They are the primary approving authority of applications submitted in connection with the Town’s wetland regulations. 

Town of New Paltz

The Town of New Paltz created a “Wetland and Watercourse Protection Law of the Town of New Paltz” which prevents the destruction of wetlands, waterbodies and watercourses, and associated buffer areas (i.e. regulated areas) to protect the health, safety and well-being of the citizens of the Town of New Paltz. The Town now regulates activities such as septic disposal systems, mining, dredging and more that may have the potential to cause a substantial adverse effect in  regulated areas.
A unique piece of this law is the Town Board, upon recommendation of a committee, appointed a Wetlands Inspector to fulfill the designated enforcement and permit processing responsibilities identified in the law such as advising the planning board and building inspector with permit application reviews, site visits and occasionally addressing violations. This includes inspections of real property, at the landowner’s request, to determine the existence of a regulated area (e.g. buffer area, waterbody, wetlands, etc.) as defined by the law. Another bonus is the first inspection does not cost the homeowner a dime! 
Check out the Town of New Paltz Wetland and Watercourse Protection Law to learn more or watch the Stream Buffer Protection in Action webinar which includes a presentation by the Town of New Paltz Wetland Inspector.

Town of Oneonta

The Town established a Watershed Protection Overlay District to preserve and protect existing publicly owned sources of municipal drinking water systems. Protection of the municipal water supplies preserves important community resources and reduces the future financial impacts related to water treatment. 
The overlay sets forth standards and principles designed to protect water quality and quantity from impacts of various activities in the watershed areas and aquifers contributing to these water supplies. The following measures and principles are included in the overlay to accomplish the goal above:
  • Prohibition or restriction of any activity, situation, structure, or land use within the Watershed District which poses a threat to municipal water supplies including inadequate on-site sewage disposal systems, inadequate sedimentation and erosion control measures, improper storage or disposal of junk, trash or other refuse, the absence or improper implementation of a spill containment plan for toxic or hazardous materials, etc. 
  • Reduction of the amount of nutrients, sediment, organic matter, pesticides, and other pollutants that reach watercourses or aquifers by requiring applications for new activities to:
    • Demonstrate compliance with all applicable federal, state and local regulations and standards relating to such materials and activities.
    • Utilize best management practices to minimize flooding and concentrated flows of stormwater and other natural functions.
  • And more!

Resources to Form an Overlay District

Share Your Thoughts

Have you begun this process? Or, do you have a program or are aware of a program relevant to source water? Send in any helpful hints or information at source.water@dec.ny.gov and we may highlight them!

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