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Virginia Continues to Move Forward on Developing its State Water Resources Plan

Since 2003, the Commonwealth of Virginia has been working on a comprehensive statewide water supply planning process.  The staff at the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), along with Virginia’s counties, cities, and towns, plus many stakeholders, have been working toward the development of Virginia’s Water Resources Plan.  At this time, the Water Supply Plan Advisory Committee (WSPAC) has concluded and finalized its report, and the local governments have completed the first iteration of their local water supply plans that are now being reviewed by DEQ staff.  More detailed information about the enabling state statutes and regulations, as well as the water supply planning process and timeline for completion, is as follows.

 

Local and Regional Water Supply Planning in Virginia

Virginia water supply planning began with an amendment to the Code of Virginia’s Senate Bill 1221 in 2003 (Section 62.1-44.38:1) that required the development of a comprehensive statewide water supply planning process to: ensure that adequate and safe drinking water is available to all citizens of the Commonwealth; encourage, promote, and protect all other beneficial uses of the commonwealth’s water resources; and encourage, promote, and develop incentives for alternative water sources, including, but not limited to desalinization.   To accomplish this effort, Virginia also established the Local and Regional Water Supply Planning Regulation (9VAC25-780) that became effective on November 2, 2005.
Local and Regional Water Supply Planning Requirements

The Local and Regional Water Supply Planning Regulation (9VAC25-780) required that all counties, cities, and towns in the Commonwealth of Virginia submit a local water supply plan or participate in a regional planning unit in the submittal of a regional water supply plan to the State Water Control Board.  The regulation details the information to be included in a region’s/locality’s water supply plan, including:

  • Existing Water Source (including source water assessment/protection activities,  including public drinking water supplies)
  • Existing Water Use Information;
  • Existing Resource Information
  • Water Demand Management, or current conservation practices;
  • Drought Response and Contingency Plans
  • Projected Water Demand Information
  • Statement of Need based on the adequacy of existing water sources to meet current and projected water demand over the planning period (a minimum of 30 years to a maximum of 50 years)
  • Potential alternatives analysis to meet projected water demand

Role of State in Development of Local and Regional Water Supply Plans

Local and Regional Water Supply Plans will serve as the foundation for the development of the State Water Resource Plan.  The state will provide technical and financial assistance; provide guidance  on compliance options; and facilitate  acquisition of existing data, resources, and water management information to help applicants (if needed) conduct evaluations, and provide notice of local public hearings.

In conjunction with the compliance determination of the water supply plans, the state will develop additional information and conduct additional evaluation of alternatives to facilitate continuous planning.  This additional information shall be included in the State Water Resources Plan and used by localities in their program planning.  This information shall include:

  • A cumulative demand analysis, based upon information contained in the State Water Resources Plan and other sources;
  • The evaluation of alternatives prepared
  • The evaluation of potential use conflicts among projected water demand and estimates of requirements for in-stream flow; and
  • An evaluation of the relationship between the local plan and the State Water Resources Plan.

 

State Water Resource Plan Purpose

 

The purpose and concepts for the state water resources plan are as follows:

  • To put local and regional plans together with relevant state water resource information in one place;
  • To provide a qualitative and quantitative description of water resources in Virginia based upon readily accessible data, and guidance on the use of that information in the decisions that face the Plan’s users;
  • To provide a statewide snapshot of what the water supply needs are, where they are met, and our best estimate of the resource’s ability to meet additional needs;
  • To manage water resources to ensure their continued availability, while also maximizing environmental and economic benefits;
  • To provide an on-going process that evolves in response to changing conditions over time;
  • To identify areas of the state where multiple users want the same source for their water needs;
  • To identify existing areas of the state where water availability may be insufficient now or in the near future based on these needs;
  • To try and find resolutions to conflicts through regional solutions, alternative sources, or some other option;
  • To identify a locality’s needs and the constraints to meeting these needs;
  • To see where there may be willing partners for regional solutions and where these solutions may be most practical; and
  • To provide a useful economic development tool by identifying areas with available water supplies, and areas where water needs for promoting tourism and recreation are identified.

 

Water Supply Plan Advisory Committee Role

During the 2010 Session, the Virginia General Assembly established the State Water Supply Plan Advisory Committee to assist the Department of Environmental Quality in developing, revising, and implementing the State Water Resources Plan.  The Committee is composed of non-legislative citizen members representing industrial and municipal water users; public and private water providers.  The committee was charged specifically to examine:

  • procedures for incorporating local and regional water supply plans into the state water resources plan and minimizing potential conflicts among various submitted plans;
  • the development of methodologies for calculating actual and anticipated future water demand;
  • the funding necessary to ensure that the needed technical data for development of a statewide planning process;
  • the effectiveness of the planning process in encouraging the aggregation of users into common planning areas based on watershed or geographic boundaries;
    the impact of consumptive use and reuse on water resources;
  • opportunities for use of alternative water sources, including water reuse and rainwater harvesting; environmental flows necessary for the protection of in-stream beneficial use of water for fish and wildlife habitat;
  • the role of the State Water Control Board in complying with the state water resources plan; and
  • other policies and procedures that the Director of the Department of Environmental Quality determines may enhance the effectiveness of water supply and water resources planning in Virginia.

 

Virginia’s Water Supply Plan Advisory Committee (WSPAC) met for the last time on December 12, 2012 to finalize the Committee’s report to the Director of the Department of Environmental Quality.  The WSPAC was charged with assisting the Department in developing, revising, and implementing the State Water Resources Plan.  The WSPAC report will soon be available to the public and will be posted on the Department’s website.

State Water Resources Plan Development

 

Currently, water supply planning staff at the Department is reviewing all local water supply plans submitted for compliance with the regulation, and providing review and comment periods as allowed in the regulation to other state agencies and the public.  This process is expected to be complete by the end of 2013.  At that time, the Department will begin development of the State Water Resources Plan.

For more information, please contact Tammy Stephenson of the Virginia DEQ at tammy.stephenson@deq.virginia.gov or 540-562-6828, or visit the state web site HERE.