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Imagine waking one morning to find that your home no longer has running water. You would probably find it difficult to start your day! It’s been said that the first few things we do each day involve water, and there is no question that water is an integral part of our daily lives, albeit one that we often take for granted.
Furthermore, the water we use at home is only part of the story, because water supports our economy in a number of important ways. In 2000, an average of 1.45 billion gallons per day were withdrawn from Maryland’s streams and aquifers to supply public water systems, domestic users, commercial and industrial entities, thermoelectric production, mining, and agriculture. That amount is projected to increase by 235 million gallons per day by the year 2030.
Maryland is fortunate to have relatively abundant water supplies, but they are not unlimited.
Meeting Population Growth Demands
Will the water in our aquifers and streams be enough to meet our future needs? Population growth and an increased pace of development, along with decentralized growth patterns, and pollution, are placing increased burdens on the ability of communities to meet current and future demands. The state’s population is projected to increase by more than one million (a 20 percent increase) by the year 2030. The percentage of homes constructed on half-acre or larger lots has increased over the past 30 years, illustrating the growing trend toward decentralization.
“Without optimized use of water, some areas of the state may not have sufficient water resources to meet their future needs, especially during times of drought,” said Dr. Robert Summers, director of the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) Water Management Administration. “Without proper planning, communities may find themselves struggling to meet the water needs of their citizens or facing the need to limit growth within their boundaries,” said Dr. Robert Summers, director of MDE's Water Management Administration.
Recognizing the potential adverse political and economic impacts to local jurisdictions, developers, and potential homeowners, there are steps being taken in Maryland to improve the way we manage water resources.
These steps promote a balanced approach that addresses public health and environmental protection as well as growth management issues.
Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. recently took an important step by reestablishing the Advisory Committee on the Management and Protection of the State’s Water Resources. The committee began meeting in October 2005, and is scheduled to submit its findings and recommendations by July 1, 2008.
MDE and the Maryland Department of Planning (MDP) coordinated an effort to educate Maryland citizens and decision-makers about the importance of planning in a way that balances land use decisions with environmental concerns, including the availability of water resources. The Secretaries of the two departments presented the topic to members of the Maryland Municipal League and the Maryland Association of Counties last summer, and MDE and MDP conducted four regional workshops on this issue in October and November.
Since January 2005, MDE’s Water Supply Program has been conducting comprehensive reviews of local water and sewer plan proposals in order to better assist local planners with their water resource management issues. These reviews help local planners identify any water supply inconsistencies as well as compliance issues related to public water system regulation.
A water capacity workgroup, composed of representatives from local planning, health, and public works departments, MDE’s Water Management Administration and MDP met monthly from June through November 2004. This group drafted capacity guidelines of a community water supply systems to ensure that water capacity is considered in local and county level planning and development decisions. The final guidance will be issued within two months.
MDE’s Water Supply Program has begun a statewide assessment of water supplies by watershed, to identify areas of the state where future water supply problems may occur. The goal is to compare available water supply estimates with population projections, and suggest appropriate courses of action where inadequacies are identified.
“Maintaining a dependable water supply resource for current and future generations is a serious challenge with implications for all of Maryland’s citizens,” said Dr. Summers.“Maryland’s programs and planning efforts focus on ensuring that every generation of Marylanders enjoy sustainable access to a safe, adequate and reliable source of water.”
For more information about Maryland’s water supplies and water resource planning efforts, contact the Water Supply Program at 410-537-3712, or visit MDE’s website at www.mde.state.md.us/water.