Part 1: Guidelines | I. The Water Resources Element Law

General Discussion​

The WRE will ensure that the comprehensive plan fully integrates water resources issues and potential solutions. This element should outline how management of water and wastewater effluent and stormwater will support planned growth, given existing and future water resource limitations. These limitations include water supply and the assimilative capacity of water bodies (i.e., the ability to accept treated wastewater). Consideration of water resource limitations and opportunities early in the local planning process will ensure that comprehensive plans are realistic and environmentally sustainable, and will provide a sound foundation to support and expedite the County Water and Sewerage Plans and applications for financial assistance and regulatory permits.

All available information from state, local and other sources should be used to describe the existing status of drinking water supplies and of the streams that receive treated wastewater effluent, septic tank effluent and nonpoint source runoff. Some information may be unavailable to conduct ideal analyses. These limitations should be noted in the WRE, and specific outstanding data needs should be identified in conjunction with recommendations for filling the data gaps.

Once the current information is established, the status of water supplies and of receiving streams in a jurisdiction should be predicted in the context of the local land use plan element of the comprehensive plan as well as any other predictors of growth. Specifically, the WRE should outline the adequacy of water and wastewater resources with respect to future growth. The WRE should act as an early warning system to determine if water resources will be adequate to support growth in a jurisdiction.

It is important to emphasize that the content of the WRE should be at the general level that is appropriate to comprehensive plans. This guidance document describes technical work and studies that are necessary to prepare a sound WRE. This technical work, while used to prepare the WRE, should not be duplicated in the comprehensive plan. The goal is to summarize and/or reference the technical work in the WRE or elsewhere in the comprehensive plan and interpret that work into the policies, actions, maps, tables and recommendations that make up the core of the comprehensive plan. However, when the WRE is submitted to the state for review, local jurisdictions should be prepared to provide the technical work and background information that supports the WRE. Figure 1, below, illustrates this relationship of other technical work to the WRE.


​​​Figure 1. The water resources element is built upon the work contained in other technical studies. The water resources element should not duplicate these technical studies but rather summarize and reference them and interpret that work into the element’s policies, actions, maps, tables and recommendations.

MDE, MDP and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) can provide technical assistance and information to the extent possible to assist local governments to prepare and implement the WRE. Requests for technical assistance must be submitted in writing.

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