DEP Wants More Tools for Water Management
10 December 2013
By Ken Ward Jr.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia regulators want lawmakers to
give them more tools to help understand how the state's water is
used and to protect the state's abundant supply.
The state Department of Environmental Protection says it needs
changes in state law to improve data collection and eliminate
water use reporting loopholes. The DEP also wants adequate funding
for stream gages and new money for digital mapping that would help
with flood control and other preventative measures.
DEP officials included the recommendations in its first-ever
statewide Water Resources Management Plan. The plan was submitted
to lawmakers late last month.
Brian Carr, program manager for water use in the DEP's Division of
Water and Waste Management, briefed lawmakers on the plan during
legislative interim meetings this week.
The plan has been nearly a decade in the making, and is part of
the follow-up efforts from state laws in 2004 and 2008 intended to
help West Virginia protect the quantity of water in its rivers,
streams and lakes.
Among the new recommendations from the DEP:
· Amend state law's definition of "large quantity"
water user to lower the threshold for water-use reporting from
750,000 gallons per month to 300,000 gallons per month.
"Having information about this broader universe of water
withdrawals would aid the state in water resource management
planning and better equip decision makers should drought-driven
withdrawal or conservation restrictions become necessary," the DEP
said in its report. The DEP noted the Legislative Auditor made a
similar recommendation in 2011.
· Rewrite the law to eliminate variances that allow
large water users to avoid reporting annually their water
withdrawals if they certify that the figure for a given year
varied no more than 10 percent from the previous year.
The DEP said the variances have resulted in 20 percent errors in
total statewide water use. "This wide discrepancy complicates
database calculations, and results in less-than-desirable survey
accuracy, which hampers the DEP's efforts to study, develop and
protect the state's water resources," the agency said.
· Continue adequate funding for stream gages and
amend state law to require notification to the state Oversight
Commission on Water Resources if any partner agency becomes unable
to continue its share of funding so that alternative money can be
found. "The only way to determine the total quantity of water in
the state is through calculations based on the data provided by
the stream gaging network," the DEP said.
· Provide $1.2 million in new money for light
detection and ranging (LIDAR) mapping for the 70 percent of the
state that hasn't been analyzed in this manner. LIDAR is
remote-sensing technology that measures distances using reflected
Statewide LIDAR coverage would enable scientists and engineers to
produce accurate flood plain modeling and precise runoff
calculations, identify mine portals, delineate wetlands, calculate
slopes of valleys and stream beds, among other uses, the DEP said.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.