MDE: Deeper wells needed in some areas of Maryland

In 2008, M. Gordon Wolman and his colleagues had a vision for the year 2030:

Despite a 25 percent increase in the state’s population, Maryland’s governing bodies came together and created a sustainable water network to handle the state’s tremendous growth.

Residents had water for household use, farmers could grow crops and everyone could enjoy life on the waterway.

In order to make that vision a reality, a successful water resources management system needed to be created.

Five years later, environmental officials said that while they’ve made strides in water sustainability,they have struggled to create a stable management system.

Grassroots environmentalists worry that without proper legislation and more attention to the issue, residents might find themselves without a proper water supply.

“It’s not just a south county issue,” said Al Tucker, president of the Chesapeake Environmental Protection Association. “It’s a statewide problem that has been thrown under the radar.”

Tucker’s organization, based in southern Anne Arundel County, was started to bring a public awareness on issues concerning the Chesapeake Bay.

A top concern includes water sustainability.

“Water is a powerful tool,” Tucker said. “It isn’t only essential, but it can also halt growth.”

According to CEPA’s projections, the population in Maryland is projected to grow by 10 percent by 2030 to include 6.7 million people.

With more people, it will mean a greater demand for water.

State recommended change

In 2008, Wolman and dozen committee members from the Advisory Committee on the Management and Protection of the State’s Water Resources released a report informing the state on what it needed to do to create a sustainable water supply for the state.

Recommendations included having state and local governments plan regionally, establish a permit fee to fund the cost of administering a permitting system and expand its water monitoring network.

Saeid Kasraei,Water Supply Program Manager for the Maryland Department of the Environment, said the state has implemented many of the recommendations.

“It’s our job to be stewards,” he said. “We have a responsibility to come up with a long term solution, it’s not always easy.”

Kasraei said hard economic times and climate change have made it difficult for MDE to create a sustainable plan. Officials are actively working for ways to keep water sustainable.

Since the report was released, MDE has installed new watering monitoring devices and funded studies on coastal plains.

Some of the biggest successes for sustainability have taken place through the state’s water permitting process.

MDE has created more effective tools for regulating the state’s 10,000 water permits to ensure that residents don’t take more than they have been allotted.

“When you drill a well or take from a river we want to make sure we aren’t taking so much that it can’t recharge,” Kasraei said.

Water shortage causing problems

A lack of water is already causing issues in different parts of the state. Lower water supplies have halted some development in southern Maryland, mainly in Charles and St. Mary’s counties.

In order for development to continue, MDE is recommending residents access water through a deeper aquifer.

In Federalsburg, Mayor William Beall said his community has always put water sustainability at the forefront of their Eastern Shore community.

“We are small, but we are steadily growing,” he said. “That meant looking at water needs.”

In the last 10 years, the town has grown to 3,000 people and added nearly 20 businesses.

With four wells to provide water to the town, leaders added new radar technology to examine how far they could drill. The city also added a second water tower in case of emergencies.

“Those small changes have been very attractive for businesses,”  Beall said. “It’s just the beginning.”

Raising awareness

Tucker said CEPA plans to hold a symposium on May 30 to talk about water sustainability in Anne Arundel County.

The organization believes change is possible as long as people are willing to adapt and change their lifestyles. Technological advances can also help provide innovative ways to address the issue.

Next year, the group also hopes to introduce water legislation.

“We’ve done the research,” he said. “Now it’s time to take it to the next level.”

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