Local water supply planning
From Water Wiki
North Carolina has required local water supply plans since passage of HB 157, Local Water Supply Planning Act of 1989 (twin to HB 156, Water Supply Watershed Protection Act of 1989), sponsored by Rep Aaron Fussell, D-Wake, and cosponsored by Rep Joe Hackney, D-Orange. The plans are updated on five-year intervals. After the third round of plans, which were due in 2007, the State has decided to begin staggering the update periods and to aggregate the plans on a river basin basis. Eventually the State hopes this will mesh with statewide river basin modeling efforts.
NC Gen Stat 143-355 requiring all units of local government that provide or plan to provide public water service to prepare a Local Water Supply Plan and to update that plan at least every five years. In addition, all community water systems that regularly serve 1,000 or more service connections or serve more than 3,000 people are required to prepare a Local Water Supply Plan.
Improving Local Water Supply Plans
Although most Southeastern States require permits for water withdrawals, they have not until recently required the development and adoption of local water supply plans. NC has been a leader in local water supply planning. Virginia has recently finalized its rules for local water supply plans and has begun accepting and reviewing plans this year.
The Division of Water Resources relies heavily upon the local data in the Local Water Supply Plans (LWSP) to develop river basin models/budgets, to identify potential conflicts, shortages and to identify opportunities for regional cooperation.
However the LWSP function more as local water supply reports than plans. Public water systems view them as another state reporting requirement. They do not use them as plans and complain that they provide a number of water reports to Div of Water Resources, Div of Environmental Health and Div of Water Quality. Each report has different reporting deadlines. Some data is reported electronically and some is reported on paper. The NC Clean Water Responsibility Act and the US Safe Drinking Water Act also require public water systems to make an annual report to their water and wastewater customers. Private (for-profit and non-profit) water systems are not required to provide LWSP to DWR. US Safe Drinking Water Act requires private water systems to make an annual report to their water customers.
The water systems that actually plan for maintaining and operating their systems and for their growth use more sophisticated planning methods than LWSP, including population trends, asset management and capital improvement plans. Some local governments have developed and adopted "urban service boundaries or districts" that provide water systems with more certainity on where water services will be expanded.
Water systems are rarely included in local land use decisions, including construction of public schools, that increase demand for water, wastewater and stormwater services, increase operating and capital costs, and effect the ability of water systems to assure adequate water supplies and wastewater treatment for the future (ie few local governments have effective comprehensive plans that link land use and infrastructure decisions.).
Water systems -- public and private -- may welcome an opportunity to reduce their reporting burden to the State (and US EPA) by consolidating their drinking water, wastewater and stormwater reports into an annual or regular Water System Report. Water systems could serve their data on their web sites and periodically and electronically report data to the State. Consolidated reporting could improve local, regional and state water budgeting and improve cooperation between local, regional and state water, wastewater and stormwater agencies.
WAS supports Div of Water Resources' (DWR)
approach of requesting LWSPs every five years on the river basin schedule and enabling electronic reporting. DWR currently posts LWSPs on its web site after the LWSP has been reviewed and approved. The 2 1/2 staff at DWR who review and approve plans are drowning in plans. DWR could post LWSP data on its web site with a caveat before it is approved and/or DWR could encourage systems to post the draft LWSP on their own web sites. The more rapid posting of LSWP on the web may facilitate regional planning.
Should DWR require the water system to conduct a water audit to account for water uses and losses as part of the LWSP process?
WAS recommends that NC League of Muncipalities, NC Assoc of County Commissioners, private water systems, and DENR: 1) inventory State and US EPA reporting requirements, 2) identify and phase in both electronic reporting to DENR and providing information to the public on web sites and other means, and 3) develop and begin to implement a plan to consolidate as much water data into one comprehensive Water System Report to the State and the public as possible. By 2014? Federal and state laws and rules require more frequent reporting for drinking water and wastewater systems than every five years but this data could be put into a comprehensive water system reporting framework.
Local water systems have the best data on daily water withdrawals and returns. Should they post more of their data on the web?
GS 159G-23 sets out eight important criteria that funders of clean water grants and loans should consider before approving funds. Improved LWSP could become the basis upon which local governments demonstrate public necessity, efficiency, sound management, capital improvement planning and other criteria to funders. This will provide an incentive to local governments to develop, adopt and implement LWSP. The water Funders Forum, including Div of Environmental Health, Div of Water Quality, Clean Water Management Trust Fund, Rural Economic Development Center, and USDA Rural Development has begun discussing how to implement changes to GS 159G-23(3) on efficiency, enacted by the 2008 General Assembly in SL 2005-143 (HB 2499), Improve Drought Preparedness and Response. The Funders Forum reports to the State Water Infrastruce Commission (SWIC).
WAS recommends that LWSP and the criteria for funders set out in GS 159G-23 be better integrated, starting with GS 159G-23(7), capital improvement planning. The Funders Forum could work with NC League of Municipalities and NC Association of County Commissiners and Div of Water Resources and report to SWIC on best practices for water systems to develop and adopt capital improvement plans. Best practices vary with the size of water systems. Applicants for and funders of clean water grants and loans need more guidance on effective capital improvement plans. DENR and SWIC could also encourage water systems to post their capital improvement plans on their web sites. Easier access to local operation & maintenance plans and capital improvement plans would aid the SWIC and other policy makers in assessing the State's water infrastructure needs. The Rural Center's Water 2030 Plan provides good estimates of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater needs, but the data is now out of date.
WAS recommends that LWSP, which may include operation & maintenance plans and capital and improvement plans and is submitted to DENR and the financial data, which includes asset management, depreciation, and revenues and is submitted to the Local Government Commission in the Dept of the State Treasurer be better integrated. Plans without financing will not be implemented. GS 159G-23(6) requires funders of clean water grants and loans to consider "sound (fiscal) management." State grant funds are generally restricted to helping water systems address existing problems. Water systems are expected to use local funds to pay for water infrastructure to serve new growth.
Improved LWSP could also become a basis for water systems to provide data to state and federal agencies for permit decisions and preparation of environmental documents. LWSP data could be plugged into permit applications and environmental documents and save time for both applicants and reviewers. For example when the Div of Environmental Health's Public Water Supply Section reviews plans for water treatment plants and water line extensions, it assumes that the applicant has analyzed its ability to supply the water for the new facilities. An improved LWSP would provide more assurance to DEH that water is available.
Should state agencies delay action on permits and environmental documents requested by local governments that do not have an approved LWSP?
WAS recommends that LWSP disclose the assumptions underlying risk management and/or safe yield calculations. DWR could convene a group of stakeholders, including water systems, university researchers, and private consultants to develop best practices for risk management. Risk management decisions should be left to local water systems. However, the risks should disclosed to the public and DWR.
DWR encourages water systems that exceed 80% of their capacity to begin planning for new capacity. (Div of Water Quality has a similar requirement for wastewater systems.) Is this a good threshold?
State policy now requires all local water systems and large community water systems to develop and submit LWSP. DWR's small staff is not able to review and approve all the LWSP submitted in a timely basis and also respond to droughts, floods, emergencies,and other water resource problems. Should the LWSP Planning Act be amended to provide more flexibility to DWR so that DWR may call on larger systems to submit their LWSP and focus on smaller systems later? NC's water resource priority should be to develop scientifcially sound river basin models/budgets for the major river basins. Good data from water systems that directly withdraw or discharge 100,000 gpd or more is more important to the development of river basin models/budgets than smaller systems that use less than 100,000 gpd or buy water services from larger systems.
A tiered system of LWSP should be considered: large; medium; small, but growing; and small & stable. If LWSP submitted by small & stable (not growing) water systems provide little important data to the State and are not used for local planning purposes, a simpler LWSP may be adequate.
Virginia Local Water Supply Planning
Virginia is phasing in local water supply plans. SB 1221 in 2003 and HB 552 in 2006 established Section 62.1-44.38 in the Code of Virginia. Virginia requires systems with a population greater than 35,000 to submit their plans in November 2008; population greater than 15,000, by November 2009; population less than 15,000, by November 2010; and regional water supply plans, by November 2011. See deq.state.va.us/watersupplyplanning/ for more details.