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Sell state park water?

July 11, 2006

Should the State of Maryland have the right to sell water that flows through or under state lands?

That's a policy under consideration by the administration of Gov. Robert Ehrlich. We favor a go-slow approach on this idea, for a couple of reasons.

Ehrlich's representatives told The (Baltimore) Sun that they have not decided on a proposed fee schedule, but have received a dozen or so requests for use of surface or groundwater from state lands.

One of those comes from Boonsboro, which is seeking rights to groundwater in South Mountain State Park. Middletown, Md., has asked about water in Gambrill State Park.

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Environmentalists warn that if the policy is approved, towns will cluster development near state parks, putting more strain on those sites.

We have two concerns, including:

What effect would withdrawing water have on the parks themselves? If selling water or water rights damages the parks, their wildlife or their vegetation, state residents would be denied full use of resources that taxpayers paid to purchase and still pay to maintain.

What effect will this have on other water sources? For example, if park streams feed into the Potomac River, how will diverting some of their flow affect river levels?

Once the deals are made, they will be tough to undo. More study of the issue now is in everyone's best interests.

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