Water Resources Element: Models & Guidelines

The Water Resources Element: Planning for Water Supply and Wastewater and Stormwater Management

The information contained on these pages may not reflect current law and practice and may be inconsistent with current regulations.


The Water Resources Element is one of several major new local planning requirements added to state law in 2006. These new mandates are summarized below.

House Bill 1141, Land Use – Local Government Planning, and House Bill 2, The Agricultural Stewardship Act of 2006, were signed into law on May 2, 2006. These laws establish new and modified local comprehensive plan elements under Article 66B of the Annotated Code of Maryland, the local planning and zoning enabling statute.

* The first new element mandated in HB 1141 is the Water Resources Element (WRE), the subject of this Models and Guidelines document. All counties and municipalities that exercise planning and zoning authority must adopt a water resources element in their comprehensive plans by October 1, 2009. The

Maryland Department of Planning may grant up to two six-month extensions. The WRE will address the relationship of planned growth to planning area water resources.

* The second new element, mandated in HB 1141, is the Municipal Growth Element. It is required to be adopted by October 1, 2009 only in municipal comprehensive plans. It is related to the WRE in important ways. The Maryland Department of Planning has produced a publication, Models & Guidelines #25: Writing the Municipal Growth Element, that provides municipalities guidance on drafting and adopting this element.

* The third new element, the Priority Preservation Area Element (PPAE) is established in HB 2. It is required to be adopted as of July 1, 2008 for counties that wish to establish or continue certification of their farmland preservation programs by the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Program and the Maryland Department of Planning. This element is optional for counties without certified agricultural land preservation programs.

* The fourth change, from HB 1141, requires that two additional topics be addressed under the existing Sensitive Areas Element: agricultural lands and forestlands intended for resource protection and conservation. Improvements in this element can contribute to meeting the water resources proposals of the WRE.

The water resources element of the comprehensive plan should answer the following questions for a county or municipality:

  • Is there adequate water supply to meet current and future needs?
  • Is there adequate wastewater and septic supply to meet current and future needs?
  • What, if any, impact will meeting these needs have on water resources?

This Models & Guidelines document, The Water Resources Element: Planning for Water Supply and Wastewater and Stormwater Management, has been produced to provide counties and municipalities guidance in writing their water resources element to comprehensive plans. In addition to guidelines, this document includes a model water resources element which contains all of the components of a completed WRE that could be adopted. Users of this publication should pay particular attention to the following features:

  • Figure 2: The flowchart describing the water resources element analytical framework;
  • Section IV,F: Review criteria for drinking water;
  • Section V,F: Review criteria for wastewater, and
  • Section VI,G: Review criteria for stormwater management.


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