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Water plan needs scrutiny

February 06, 2007

Those who are interested in development in Hagerstown and Washington County should pay attention to what is happening in nearby Carroll County.

Just as officials here found that the old methods of dealing with sewer capacity are no longer valid, they might soon find that new Maryland rules onww water resources might be just as difficult to deal with.

Those new state rules require municipalities to increase their water supplies to deal with the demands of 100-year drought conditions.

Carroll County was already facing water woes, with Westminster under a building moratorium and the towns of Mount Airy and Taneytown facing the possible shutdown of development there by spring.

Much of this problem is due to the fact that the main water sources are wells. Participants at a "water summit" held Saturday talked of reviving old plans for two reservoirs, but officials said it might take 10 years to build them. That's assuming, of course, that there is no litigation involved.

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If you think this isn't Washington County's problem, in 2002, the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin issued a report noting that if a drought occurred in 2030, continuing upstream development could leave the metropolitan Washington, D.C. suburbs without enough water.

After two years of study, the Washington County Water and Sewer Infrastructure Commission determined there would be adequate water here until 2026.

But that assumes that the state or the downstream counties won't do anything to change the rules. The Associated Press reported that the state is using Carroll County as a model for a new law governing water resources.

It would be foolish to conclude that Washington County's input on such a law isn't vital, or that state officials can be trusted to take this county's needs into account even if no one here speaks up.

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