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Multi-state water use plan should be a priority in 2003

December 02, 2002

After the inaugural festivities are done and the newly elected governors of Pennsylvania and Maryland have taken office, one item they should quickly make a top priority is their states' long-term water needs. West Virginia must be involved, too, in a regional effort to plan for the next 30 years.

All three states got a big wake-up call this summer, when the continuing drought coincided with the release of a report by the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin.

The ICPRB report said that continued growth upstream from Washington., D.C., could strain the Potomac's ability to serve the metropolitan areas if an extreme drought were to occur by the year 2030.

That may seem like a long way off, but it's unlikely that metro-area officials will wait until then to seek restraints on development that could hurt their ability to grow. The states likely to be affected should plan now for that possibility.

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How should that be done? One model comes from the City of Frederick, which in September proposed a 50-year water management plan for the Monocacy River watershed, including Frederick and Carroll counties and Adams County, Pa.

One possibility raised then by Frederick Mayor Jennifer Dougherty was the creation of additional reservoirs in that county, an idea dropped in the 1970s after much debate.

The states also have to look at surveying groundwater reserves, which some areas' officials are realizing are not unlimited. The homebuyer who purchases a dwelling served by a well needs some assurance that it won't go dry in six months.

And then there's conservation, which like waste recycling is done well by some and not at all by others. The states must sell their residents on the idea that unless voluntary efforts succeed, mandatory measures will follow.

Finally, isn't it time to end the dangerous and unhealthy practice of burning trash and garden rubbish?

Those unconcerned about its effect on health and air quality should at least consider the danger it poses to volunteer firefighters, who must respond when someone's little trash fire gets out of hand.

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