Overlay Zoning for Source Water Protection

Zoning Practice — July 2020

By Matthew Allen


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Water resources are typically understood as part of a coupled natural-human system. This understanding has been predicated on the undeniable observation that humans and the natural environment influence each other at the local, regional, and global scales.

While water resources are impacted by human activity in many direct and indirect ways, land use and land cover change are especially notable as being heavily driven by human patterns of growth and change. Deforestation and increases in impervious surfaces are known to greatly alter local hydrology. Impacted watersheds suffer from flash floods throwing erosion and sedimentation regimes out of balance resulting in habitat loss and limitations of water quantity/availability. Point and nonpoint pollution from land use stand to contaminate watersheds, undermining their ability to support nature and humans.

This issue of Zoning Practice answers a series of questions toward the goal of forwarding an understanding of how land-use regulation — particularly zoning — can and should be used for source water protection.


Page Count
Date Published
July 1, 2020
Adobe PDF
American Planning Association

About the Author

Matthew Allen
Matt Allen is source water protection specialist for the Atlantic States Rural Water & Wastewater Association, where he administers the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Source Water Program for Connecticut and Rhode Island. Allen’s professional background is in environmental science and planning, having previously worked as a municipal planner and zoning official as well as a research technician for federal and state environmental agencies.