Source water protection, often referred to as "watershed protection," is the reduction or prevention of water pollution at its source, represents a tradeoff between treatment plant construction and operation costs. This kind of protection is not always possible, but it has been very effectively implemented by several water systems. A water system that has access to a high-quality source may not need as extensive a treatment plant as a system with a poorer-quality source. This is especially true if a high-quality source, such as a reservoir in an isolated natural area, can be protected by limiting human activity close to that source. Water from such a source may not require the settling step, may involve fewer chemicals or smaller doses of them, or might be able to kill pathogens with strong disinfectants like ozone or ultraviolet light instead of providing filtration.
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