Choosing a Consultant to Delineate the Wellhead Protection Area
Barbara C. Cooper, Water Quality Education Specialist
Jane R. Frankenberger, Extension Agricultural Engineer
Fred Whitford, Coordinator, Purdue Pesticide Programs
Safe drinking water is vital to our communities, to our economy, and to
our health. The best way to ensure a safe water supply, now and for the
future, is to protect the area nearest a community public supply well from
|How Large an Area Do
You Need to Protect?
|How Do You Choose a
|Indiana Information Contacts
Wellhead Protection Planning Overview
|Local planning team
|Delineation of the wellhead protection area
|Identification of potential sources of contamination
|Management of the wellhead protection area
|Public participation, education, and outreach
This publication offers some guidelines for water supply operators and
wellhead protection planning teams who must hire a qualified ground water
scientist to delineate a wellhead protection area.
What Is a Wellhead Protection Area?
The wellhead protection area includes much more than just the wells
themselves. Delineation is the process of identifying how much of an area
around those wells needs to be managed to protect the water supply.
The delineated area is important because it serves to focus the attention
of the wellhead protection planning team on what activities within that
area might be potential contributors to ground water pollution.
"Potential" is the important word here, in that Indiana’s Wellhead
Protection Rule (327 IAC 8-4.1) emphasizes prevention rather than
remediation. Once activities are identified, the wellhead protection
planning team can begin developing voluntary best management programs and
outreach efforts designed to educate those living and working within the
wellhead protection area on how they can all contribute to safe-guarding
the water supply.
How Large an Area Do You Need to Protect?
The rule says that if your water supply system currently draws more than
100,000 gallons a day you need to delineate an area around the well that
would protect your community’s ground water for five years. In other
words, ground water directly underneath the bound-aries of the delineated
wellhead protection area would require approximately five years to travel
to the pumping well (Figure 1).
To determine the exact shape and size of the wellhead protection area, a
qualified ground water scientist must be hired to collect information
about the geology of the underground area through which the water flows,
the volume of water that is pumped each day, predicted increases in water
use, and other factors. The scientist enters the information into a
computer program that simulates the way the water flows through the
subsurface. Analytical models, semi-analytical models, or numeri-cal
models can be used for this simulation. The modeling method recommended by
the consultant will depend on the size of the system, the complexity of
the geology, and the intended type of management.
Systems that pump less than 100,000 gallons per day are not required to
hire a consultant to perform a detailed and scientific delineation. They
have the option of delineating a 3000-foot radius around the supply well
as the wellhead protection area. You can learn more about this option in
WQ-29, "A Shortcut to Wellhead Protection Delineation for Some Systems."
(See "Useful Publications.")
How Do You Choose a Consultant?
Scope of Services
When you request a proposal from a potential consultant, you should know
exactly how much you are asking the consultant to do. Do you want only the
approved delineation or a contaminant source inventory as well? Is the
consultant going to set up a geographic information system (GIS) for you
that can be updated periodically for a negotiated fee? Or will you receive
only paper maps? Decide exactly what you need before you begin selecting a
Suggested Steps for Hiring a Consultant
- Decide on the scope of services desired.
- Request proposals from qualified
- Evaluate the proposals.
- Contact the references.
- Interview the applicants.
- Negotiate a contract.
The consultant may offer to do the entire wellhead protec-tion plan for a
fee. Beware of accepting this option. If the community does not document
its involvement through the local planning team, the plan will be
incomplete and will not be approved by IDEM.
Provide a list detailing your expected deliverables to each potential
consultant. Make sure each consultant addresses every item in the bid.
Provide the phone number of a contact person who can answer questions
about the proposal for the consultants. Attempt to choose from among three
or more consultants who have submitted similar proposals for
Delineations are complex and can require considerable time and effort. A
delineation may require from three weeks to three months to complete. Get
a clear estimate from the consultant on how much time the delineation will
require. Make sure the date agreed to by each of the partners is
stipulated in the contract.
Types of Models to Use
You may not know if you need an analytical, semi-analytical, or numerical
model for the delineation. The most complex model is the numerical model.
The least complex is the analytical model. Generally, the model needed is
dictated by the geology of the area, available data, and the management
tools available to your commu-nity. If the geology is very complex, you
need a more sophisticated model and more data to validate the model. If
you plan to pass zoning ordinances, the model needs to be legally
defensible. You should question potential consultants about what model
they recommend and why. If several consultants recommend the same type
model for delineation, you will have more confidence in the
A five-year travel-time boundary will be determined from the model. Inside
this boundary is the delineated wellhead protection area. This area is not
usually in the shape of a circle. Because ground water, like surface
water, generally flows from a certain direction, the area that needs
protecting will extend farther in one direction than in another. The
delineated area may be more of a strip or an odd oval shape like the one
shown in Figure 1.
A modeled delineation is complex and according to Indiana’s Wellhead
Protection Rule (327 IAC 8-4.1) must be completed by a "qualified ground
water scientist." But what exactly is a "qualified ground water
There is no specific license or certificate which will identify a
"qualified ground water scientist." A Certified Professional Geologist
(CPG) or a Professional Engineer (PE) should also have background and
experience in the field of hydrogeology.
- A hydrogeologist is a geologist who has specialized in
understanding the physical and chemical properties of underground water. A
hydrogeologist has training in both geology and hydrology and is qualified
to complete a wellhead protection delineation.
- A hydrologist studies surface water and ground water, may
have a formal degree in geology, geography, or engineering, and is
qualified to complete a wellhead protection delineation.
- A Professional Engineer (PE) has a degree in engineering and
has passed an engineering board exam which covers many engineering areas.
PE licenses are state-specific, so PE’s licensed in one state are not
necessarily licensed to practice in another state. Many Professional
Engineers have studied hydrology, but being a PE does not necessarily make
someone qualified to do a wellhead protection delineation.
- A Certified or Licensed Professional Geologist (CPG) has a
degree in geology, a minimum of five years of experience, and has passed a
national exam that covers many areas of geology. He or she may or may not
have training in hydrogeology. Being a CPG does not necessarily make
someone qualified to complete a wellhead protec-tion delineation.
When you hire a consulting firm, you are usually hiring one person,
perhaps with the assistance of support personnel, who will ultimately
provide the finished delineation.
Determine the qualifications of the individual you are hiring. A large
firm may have a hydrogeologist on staff; however, a firm could also
subcontract with another firm for the services of a hydrogeologist. The
indi-vidual responsible for modeling the delineation is the person to
Educational and professional qualifications are the most important aspects
to consider when hiring a consultant, but there are other considerations
as well. The following are some suggestions that may be helpful in
choosing a consultant for your delineation.
Good consultants can clearly communicate the technical details of what
they are trying to do. A knowledgeable consultant does not have to
"snow" you and will appreciate having a well-informed client. Ask the
consultant to describe in simple language how he or she will actually
develop the delineation maps. If you can understand this explanation, it’s
a good indication that he or she will probably be able to explain the
details of the delineation model as well.
The consultant you choose should be accessible. If you have a question or
concern, request assurance that you will be able to talk directly with the
consultant within a reasonable period of time.
Questions for Potential Consultants
- Are you willing to work with the community and IDEM?
- Will you submit the delineation to IDEM for pre-approval?
- Will you make necessary changes or
- Will required corrections and changes increase our costs?
- Are you willing to attend public meetings and discuss your findings
with the community?
- What is your educational background? (geology,
engineering, hydrogeology, etc.)
- What is your experience in hydrogeology? (other projects related to
- Have you done other delineations?
- Can you provide copies of some reports and/or delineations you have
- Can you provide letters of recommendation and references?
Questions for Former Clients
Ask the potential candidates about contacting former clients. You
should speak with some of the people who have previously used this
consultant to find out whether the consultant can deliver what he or she
promises. Consider asking former clients the following questions.
- Did the consultant stay within the budget?
- Did the consultant provide the services on time?
- Did the consultant deliver a usable product?
- Was the consultant readily accessible to answer questions?
- Would you recommend the consultant?
- Were you satisfied with the consultant?
- Would you hire the consultant again?
The contract should state that all or part of the payment will be made
contingent on a delineation which is approved by the Indiana Department of
Environmental Management. If the delineation is not approved, the contract
should state that you are under no obligation to pay for the remaining
charges. The contract should specify that regular meetings between the
consultant and the contract monitor will be held to discuss the progress
made on the delineation.
The consultant you hire will help you start on the road to wellhead
protection. After the Indiana Department of Environmental Management has
approved your delinea-tion, the wellhead protection planning team can
complete the inventory of potential contaminants in the delineated
wellhead protection area. The team can also begin working on formulating
management and contingency plans, and developing a program for public
education about wellhead protection.
The following Purdue Extension publications provide information
about other aspects of the wellhead protection process.
- WQ-2, "What Is Groundwater?"
- WQ-24, "Wellhead Protection in Indiana"
- WQ-28, "Forming the Wellhead Protection Planning Team"
- WQ-29, "A Shortcut to Wellhead Protection Delineation for Some Systems"
- WQ-31, "Inventorying Potential Sources of Drinking Water Contamination"
All are available free of charge through your county Purdue Extension
office or by calling 1-888-EXT-INFO.
The USEPA has an informative publication, "Wellhead Protection,
A Guide for Small Communities," EPA/625/R-93/002 available free by
calling the USEPA Publication Office at 1-800-490-9198.
Indiana Information Contacts
- The Purdue Extension office in your county can provide you with
information and resources on water quality protection. Look in the phone
book under county government, or call 1-888-EXT-INFO.
- "Safe Water for the Future" is a Purdue Extension program that
provides resources statewide on wellhead protection and watershed
protection. Call 765-496-6331, or visit our Web site at http://www.ecn.purdue.edu/safewater.
- Indiana Department of Environmental Management, Ground Water
Section, can provide information on Indiana’s Wellhead Protection Rule and
compliance. Call the Groundwater Section at 317-308-3321 or 800-451-6027,
ext. 308-3321. Information is also available on the Web at
- Indiana Water and Wastewater Association provides training and
on-site assistance to water supply operators. They can be reached at
1-888-937-4992 or on the Web at http://www.iwwa.com.
- The Indiana "Rural" Water Association also provides education
and assistance to water supply operators. They can be reached at
812-988-6631 or Fax 812-988-6961.
The authors wish to express our appreciation to the following people
for their review of this publication:
Martha Clark, Indiana Department of Environmental Management,
Office of Water Management, Drinking Water Branch;
Mary Hoover, Indiana Department of Environmental Management,
Office of Water Management, Drinking Water Branch; and
Don Jones, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering,
It is the policy of the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service,
David C. Petritz, Director, that all persons shall have equal opportunity
and access to its programs and facilities without regard to race, color,
sex, religion, national origin, age, or disability. Purdue University is
an Affirmative Action employer.
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