A safe and adequate drinking water supply is critical to the sustainability of existing communities and to the viability of future planned growth. Increasing demand from the 1.1 million additional people projected to live in Maryland over the next 25 years is expected to challenge local utilities’ ability to provide safe drinking water and maintain good water quality. Some communities are already at or near current supply limitations. By 2030, the statewide demand for water for most uses, excluding self- supplied commercial and industrial uses, is expected to increase from 1,447 million gallons per day (MGD) in the year 2000 to 1,680 MGD, an increase of 233 MGD, or 16%. This total increase includes about 84 MGD of additional water for agricultural irrigation. Regional projections for 2030 demand are not available for irrigation uses.
The region with the largest projected demand for additional water, not including use for irrigation, is suburban Washington (Montgomery, Prince George’s and Frederick counties) at 96 MGD. Southern Maryland is the region with the highest percentage projected increase from 2000 to 2030 at 40%, followed closely by the Lower Eastern Shore at 30%.
Maryland has faced a number of record drought periods in recent years that have necessitated the implementation of some difficult protective measures to enable the state to continue providing adequate water supplies. These stressors on water resources highlight the need to plan ahead to ensure adequate drinking water supplies at the local, comprehensive planning level.
Existing regional and county water resource studies should be used to inform local planning efforts. Local government experience in obtaining permits for water appropriation should also be taken into account when assessing the reasonableness of future expectations.
Decisions regarding growth and proposed land uses should consider planning-level assessments of the adequacy of drinking water resources for the planning time period under consideration. For the proposed number and location of homes, businesses and industrial facilities to be viable, the availability, costs and timeframes to provide an adequate water supply must be achievable. Local comprehensive plans must provide the vision and path needed to provide adequate water supplies for planned uses and needs within the planning time frame.
Limited water supplies can slow or stop planned development, resulting in the inability to fulfill the vision of local comprehensive plans and implement smart growth policies.
Options for addressing these circumstances need to be explored, including, but not limited to, modifying the land use element to change the amount or location of growth, thereby capping growth where it cannot be supported. Local planning and zoning entities must be flexible enough to react to these changes.
Protection of water supplies is a critical component of the vision for the comprehensive plan. Local land use and zoning decisions can have a profound impact on the risk of contamination to valuable drinking water supplies. Water supplies have varying degrees of vulnerability to contamination due to the nature of the aquifer being used, the size of the watershed, existing land uses and the potential sources of contamination within a recharge or watershed area.
MDE has provided reports assessing the risk to public water supply sources to all water systems, county environmental health agencies, county planning agencies and local libraries. These were completed for all public water systems in the state. These source water assessments map contributing areas for water supply sources, identify potential contaminant risks and make recommendations for protecting these sources. The WRE should take the findings of these reports into account to guide the development of comprehensive plans to ensure the integrity and protection of vulnerable water supply sources.