Report: Area water supply sufficient for now

By Alex Bridges

Water supplies should keep up with projected growth in the area, though some communities already use nearly their limit, a regional report says.

But neighbors to the south that take water from similar sources may need more in the future, warns the Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission.

Front Royal Town Council heard an update this week on the state’s review of a regional water supply plan. Commission’s Executive Director Martha Shickle told council the plan shows water supplies for most of the area would suffice for years.

“I don’t want to suggest that just because the plan was approved and everything’s in great shape that come five years from now when the review is due we may be needing to look at some different scenarios for water supply,” Shickle warned.

The commission submitted the Northern Shenandoah Valley Water Supply Plan to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality in November 2011. The plan covers Winchester, the counties of Clarke, Frederick, Page, Shenandoah and Warren, and all incorporated towns in the commission’s region.

The DEQ reviewed the plan and notified the commission that the document met provisional compliance with the state requirements, Shickle advised council. The 90-day public comment period on the plan ended Wednesday.

Shickle plans to send a response to the DEQ’s compliance letter. Next steps include coordination at the larger regional level on how to address water supply issues, Rhonda Turman, marketing communications manager for the commission, stated in an email.

Jurisdictions in the region remain within the available water supplies based on population projections over the planning period, Shickle said. Some jurisdictions need to develop strategies on how to improve systems and help prevent the loss of water. Some jurisdictions also need to review their permits issued by Virginia Department of Health on how much they can take out of the Shenandoah River. Shickle said some jurisdictions in the region are pushing the limit.

“All in all, with regard to our projections for water supply over demand, we’re in good shape,” Shickle said. “However, I do want to let you know that some of the jurisdictions to the south are projected to have a deficit over the planning period.”

“I think it’s going to be important for our region to watch what happens to the south of us with regard to those local planning efforts and how they intend to make adjustments to their growth policy or their permitting for withdrawal because that could significantly impact the supply that we have in our region,” Shickle added.

The statewide regulation that requires water supply plans calls for jurisdictions or regions to include the following information:

  • Existing sources, use and resources
  • Demand management or conservation practices
  • Drought response and contingency plans
  • Projected demand
  • Statement of need based on adequacy of existing sources to meet current and projected demand over a planning period of 30-50 years

Experts have identified a general need for the regional commission to coordinate efforts with the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission to determine strategies that address deficits in the water supply as projected in the planning horizon.

Strategies could include a review of local water distribution systems in an effort to reduce leaky pipes. Front Royal recently began its ongoing efforts to address leaks in the water system. Other jurisdictions also have spent millions of dollars to improve water systems.

At the same time, communities across the entire Shenandoah Valley could work together and collaborate on water supply planning, Turman noted.

“The flow of the River and groundwater through the Valley is connected beyond the localities in the NSV and we’d benefit from working with Central Shenandoah to discuss options,” Turman stated in an email.

Visit http://tiny.cc/ysm92w to view individual plans.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com