Focus On Water Division
Wellhead Protection (WHP)

Nebraska’s Wellhead Protection (WHP) Program is a voluntary program which assists communities and other public water suppliers in preventing contamination of their water supplies. The Nebraska Legislature passed LB 1161 in 1998
(Neb. Rev. Stat. §46-1501 – 46-1509) *, authorizing the Wellhead Protection Area Act. This Act sets up a process for public water supply systems to use if they choose to implement a local Wellhead Protection plan. The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) is the lead agency for Wellhead Protection (WHP) Plan approval.

The goal of Nebraska’s Wellhead Protection Program is to protect the land and groundwater surrounding public drinking water supply wells from contamination. Since approximately 85% of Nebraskans receive their drinking water from groundwater, preventing groundwater contamination is vital.

Publication – Keeping Your Water Safe – The Groundwater Foundation 2009

The Wellhead Protection planning process includes identifying the land surrounding the public water supply wells to be protected, identifying potential sources of groundwater contamination within this area, and managing the potential contaminant sources. Emergency, contingency, and long term plans are also developed for the community water supply, all the while educating and involving the public.

Database – Wellhead Protection Status – NDEQ

List – Approved WHP Plans – NDEQ 5/2013

Publication –
Wellhead Protection 101 – NDEQ 2013
Publication –
WHP Area Management Planning Manual – The Groundwater Foundation 2008


Delineating the Wellhead Protection Area

A Wellhead Protection area is calculated from information such as the geologic material the well is drilled into and the annual pumpage of the well. Computer-generated flow lines depict the approximate path groundwater, or a contaminant in groundwater, will take to reach a well. Flow lines are then associated with estimated times-of-travel and a boundary is drawn on property lines enclosing all 20-year-flow lines. The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) provides these maps at no charge.

To request a copy of a map, please email us: or call 402-471-0096. If you are affiliated with an agency you may request a password in order to access the map database below.

Database – Wellhead Protection Maps (password protected) – NDEQ

To update a map, the systems Designated Water Operator needs to fill out the form below

Form – Datasheet for delineation of WHP areas – NDEQ 2010

A Wellhead Protection map is just a piece of scrap paper unless you enact local ordinances, county zoning, or voluntary activities within your Wellhead Protection Area.

Potential Contaminant Source Inventory

The purpose of a potential contaminant source inventory is to identify potential contaminants that may pollute groundwater. Inventories should be compiled from existing databases and on-the-ground observations. Contact the NDEQ Wellhead Protection Program for spreadsheets and shapefiles from existing databases.
Main Requirements:
  • Inventory completed/updated within the past 3 years
  • Contaminants marked on a map (point sources)
  • Spreadsheet associated with point source contaminants
  • Land use map (non-point sources)
Databases Available:
  • NDEQ – Interactive Mapping System – Contact NDEQ WHP Program for shapefile (GIS file)
  • NDNR – Registered Water Wells *
  • State Fire Marshal’s Office - flammable and hazardous waste storage – Contact NDEQ WHP Program
  • NRDs - abandoned wells – Contact your local NRD
  • NE Oil & Gas Conservation Commission - Oil & Gas Wells *
  • NE Dept of Ag - Ag chemical storage/manufacturer – Contact NDEQ WHP Program

Common Potential Contaminant Sources:
  • Fuel Storage
  • Grain Storage
  • Water Well
  • Chemigation
  • Livestock
  • Chemical Storage
Commercial / Light Industry
  • Auto Repair
  • Dry Cleaners
  • Fuel Stations/Storage
  • Machine Shop
  • Rail Yard
  • Manufacturing
  • Gas/Oil Well
  • Junk Yard
  • Landfill
  • Sewage Treatment
  • Cemetery
  • Golf Course
  • HWY Maintenance Yard
  • Transportation Corridors
  • Etc

Contaminant Source Management

Management of a groundwater supply by local communities can involve a number of possible steps. These may include the enactment of sanitary and water ordinances, public nuisance laws, and zoning restrictions on specific land uses; the purchase of land or conservation easements; cooperative efforts with local NRDs; or voluntary actions. Best Management Practices should be encouraged throughout the Wellhead Protection area. Some water systems subsidize or even completely fund these practices.

Publication – Contaminant Source Management Options for WHP - NDEQ 2002
Title 179 NAC 7.007 - Page 8 –
Setback distances for Community PWS wells *– DHHS 2010

Main Requirements:
  • Develop a list of existing controls
    • for example: setback distances for wells, backflow ordinances, limitations on fuel/chemical storage, limitations on confined animal feeding operations, etc.
  • Develop or suggest new controls
  • Include copies or descriptions of inter agency agreements (if any)
Example Best Management Practices in Urban Settings:
  • Alternative Lawn Options
  • Improving Soil Structure
  • Installing Water Meters
  • Low Flow Nozzles
  • Mulching Lawn Clippings
  • Permeable Pavement
  • Rain Barrels / Rain Gardens
  • Rain Sensors for Lawn Irrigation
  • WHP Area Signs

Example Best Management Practices in Ag Settings:
  • Alternative Cropping Methods
  • Conservation Reserve Program
  • No-Till Cultivation
  • Nutrient Management Program (soil testing)
  • Strip Cropping
  • Terracing
  • Water Management Program
  • WHP Area Signs

Emergency, Contingency, and Long-Term Planning
A plan is developed to provide a replacement source of drinking water in the event of:
  • Shut down of well due to contamination
  • A natural disaster that impacts wells: flood, tornado, drought, ice storm
  • Major mechanical or physical breakdown of pump, water tower, or distribution system
  • Vandalism to well, water tower/storage, or supply source

Main Requirements:
  • Include or reference a copy of your emergency plan
  • Identify a safe short-term, temporary source of drinking water
  • Identify options for obtaining a new long-term source of water
    • Possible locations of a new well
    • Other Public Water Systems to purchase water from

Public Education & Participation

Through state agencies, local groups, and environmental organizations, the public needs to be informed throughout the process and educated about what can be done to protect groundwater and their drinking water.

Main Requirements:
  • Make the Wellhead Protection Plan available for public review at least 30 days prior to the meeting where public comment on the Plan will be taken/recorded
  • Take public comments at a regularly scheduled meeting of the controlling entity (village board, city council, RWD board, etc.)
  • Public notice both of the above
  • Provide proof of public meetings and public notices

Funding Options

Numerous funding options are available for everything from paying someone to develop a plan to implementing on-the-ground management practices. Sources of these funds may include:

Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ)
Wellhead Protection Program (WHP)
1200 ‘N’ Street, Suite 400
PO Box 98922
Lincoln, NE 68509-8922
402-471-0096 - 1-877-253-2603 (toll free)

Nebraska Rural Water Association
402-443-5216 *

The Groundwater Foundation
1-800-858-4844 *

Natural Resources Districts (NRD)
402-471-7670 *

Other Resources

Database –
SDWIS 2.2 - Public Water Supply System Information * – DHHS

Map – Nebraska WHP Areas (community public water systems only) PDF – NDEQ 3/2012
File Size 1053 KB

If you find any problems with this page or have any questions please call 402-471-0096 or e-mail

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