Agricultural Economics Department


Date of this Version



Published in Cornhusker Economics. November 28, 2001. Produced by the Cooperative Extension, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Nebraska-Lincoln .


The Wellhead Protection Area Act (WHPA Act) was adopted in 1998. The WHPA Act authorizes public water suppliers (primarily cities and villages) to designate wellhead protection areas (WHPAs) to protect community water supplies from pollution.

Under the Nebraska Safe Drinking Water Quality Act, the quality of water provided by public water supply systems is regulated by the Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services. If a community’s water violates drinking water standards, the community can operate only under NDHHS administrative order until the violations are corrected. Nitrate is Nebraska’s most widespread groundwater contaminant. If a community’s water exceeds the 10 parts per million (ppm) nitrate drinking water standard, a community may use a WHPA program as a long-term solution to nitrate contamination, avoiding costly replacement of existing wells or developing advanced water treatment systems to remove nitrates from drinking water. The WHPA can be used so long as nitrates are less than 15 ppm and the community provides bottled water to infants and pregnant women.

This newsletter examines the wellhead protection area program, and evaluates different community legal authorities to protect the community’s drinking water supplies for first and second class cities and villages.