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Jack Lynch, Editor
January 2, 2005
The future of water in Frederick is much larger than the issue of whether the City and County can agree on a contract to share water supply from the Potomac River. Yet it is the fact that we are now going down to the Potomac River that establishes the framework for far greater cooperation and limitations of water sourcing in Frederick County. By drawing on the Potomac it means that we must acknowledge that we are taking part in a shared resource. That source has been managed and shared by the Washington region, and managed in a mutually beneficent and cooperative manner for at least sixty years.
A recent report by the Governorís Advisory Committee on the Management and Protection of the Stateís Water Resources states it clearly, the State must find, plan to develop, and being generating approximately 233 Mgd of new water sources to meet projected needs. In a fast growing area like Frederick County, we will need to do much more than build a single pipeline. What happens the next decade, or twenty years from now, or fifty? Impoundments and reservoirs are the one clear solution if weíre looking for new internal sources in Frederick County.
The Potomac supply is very limited. During recent droughts, for the first time ever, existing augmentation reservoirs were opened to maintain river flow. A safe source was validated by that, but it left concern for further sourcing of the Potomac. Studies by the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin for the Washington Metropolitan Area water suppliers indicate that by 2020 there will only be a ten percent reserve, and by 2030, a one percent reserve on the Potomac source. There is nothing left to allocate. Only further augmentation can resolve the issue.
Unless we all grow wiser and begin now to meet the needs beyond twenty years, our growth and economy may dry up along with our water sources. In water sourcing, twenty years is a short supply. The need to regulate the impacts of our development through land use matters is part of the eventual solution. Conservation design and low impact development are means for us to have our new homes and also protect our waters.
One way to manage paying for new supply, which would work to Frederickís benefit, will be to leverage Washington area funding of new sources. The model of consumptive use payments is the key. Consumptive use is the water we draw from sources that is not returned to the flow-by systems such as streams and rivers. Itís the net minus in the equation of the water cycle, whether by evaporation, transpiration, or ground absorption, that water is lost to the system.
For the Potomac, Frederickís consumptive use is probably a mere 3-4 Mgd compared to the Washington areaís, where consumptive use is about 400 Mgd. So a consumptive use contribution plan to new sources would mean that every dollar invested by Frederick would result in thousands of Washington area dollars being paid into a fund to build upstream reservoirs. We would be wise to move forward and create the model for doing a consumptive use plan regionally. Our cup is half full, and itís half empty.