Volume III, Number 7
Planning for Future Water Resource Needs
by-Brigid Kenney, Office of the Secretary
The Advisory Committee on the Management and Protection of the State’s Water Resources, headed by Dr. M. Gordon Wolman and staffed by MDE, recently issued its final report: Water for Maryland’s Future: What We Must Do Today. The report concludes that Maryland is without an accurate picture of the long-term viability of the State’s water resources, that demands and stresses on our water resources will increase, and that the State needs more comprehensive data to plan for the future.
The report noted that, despite the combined effort of federal, State and local agencies, information on surface water, groundwater, and ecosystem health is incomplete. In some areas, the current pattern of water use may already exceed the sustainable yield. It is imperative that Maryland develop a more robust water resources program based on sound, comprehensive data.
The Committee identified challenges Maryland faces in attempting to manage water sustainably: increased population, sprawling patterns of land development, increased irrigation, competition among users for the same water, degraded water quality, and climate change.
The report advocated action on several fronts to assure a sustainable supply of safe water for Marylanders for generations to come. The Committee recommended that Maryland obtain the sound, comprehensive data needed to monitor and address this issue and that additional resources for staff and programs be made available. It suggested that two major hydrologic studies, the Coastal Plain Aquifer and Fractured Rock Water Supply Studies, be fully funded. The Committee estimated that an additional $72 million would be needed over the next eight years to fund the new and enhanced activities.
The Coastal Plain Aquifer Study will provide methods for integrating the impacts of concentrated local groundwater withdrawals on the larger regional aquifer system. It will also provide insight into the observation of declining water levels at points in Southern Maryland and on the Eastern Shore, and on the effects this phenomenon may have on surface streams and aquatic life.
The Fractured Rock Water Supply Study will provide tools for predicting the seasonal impacts of groundwater withdrawal in the Piedmont Counties, including Carroll, Frederick, and Washington Counties, on the water resource and the ecological health of the streams. Together these studies will provide scientific tools needed to ensure that water is allocated and used in a sustainable fashion, without causing ecological damage.
Second, the Advisory Committee recommended that MDE develop a statewide water supply plan. This plan would describe the overall water resources management program and articulate the State’s policies and priorities, including funding priorities, as they relate to water supply management. A statewide Plan would help local governments integrate their local comprehensive plans and county water and sewerage plans with statewide goals and priorities.
The Committee recommended that State and local governments coordinate and plan on a regional basis. Political boundaries are largely irrelevant to surface and groundwater supplies, and governments should work together to overcome the deeply entrenched preference for planning along jurisdictional lines. Significant economies of scale could be realized if joint planning results in larger water treatment plants and more efficient delivery systems.
The Committee recognized the need for additional funding to complete the studies and develop the program. The Committee concluded that if Maryland invests now in its water resources programs, it can ensure adequate, safe drinking water and health streams for the future.
Lastly, the Committee noted that an involved public is essential. Informed citizens can conserve water, avoid activities that pollute water supplies, support planning efforts, and encourage elected officials to fund water resources programs. The success of the water management program will ultimately be determined by the cumulative effect of the choices each individual makes.
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