Pennsylvania Protecting Water Resources From Overuse

A water resources initiative designed to protect water resources in Pennsylvania was introduced earlier this month at a state-wide water conservation congress.

The initiative was outlined by Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary David E. Hess. The announcement came on Dec. 13 at the first-ever congress, which took place at Penn State University in State College, Pa.

"Water is one of our most precious resources," Hess said. "It is vital to our economy and to natural systems and habitats, yet we know little about how much water we have and how it's used. Proposed legislation will allow us to better manage our water resources by laying a foundation of solid information on which we can make decisions."

The initiative is included in state proposed legislation--Senate bill 1230 and House bill 2230--which would accomplish four of Pennsylvania Governor Mark Schweiker's water resources objectives. They are

*Update the state water plan. DEP would complete an update in three years and have updates every five years thereafter.
*Identify critical water planning areas. It's expected that during the updating of the state water plan, areas will be identified where the dependence on water exceeds, or is projected to exceed, available supplies. These areas would be designated as "critical water planning areas" and identified on a multi-municipal watershed basis, possibly covering more than a dozen local governments.
*Create a water conservation program. The act would establish a formal program to promote water conservation and water use efficiency practices for all water users. A water resources technical assistance center also would be created to promote the use and development of water conservation and water-use efficiency education and technical assistance programs.
*Set water well construction standards. The act would modernize the water well drillers license act of 1956, transfer responsibilities from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to the DEP and require the DEP to develop water well standards. The DEP, through the Environmental Quality Board, would establish minimum standards for siting, construction, alteration, and abandonment of water wells with the help of a special 12-member water well technical advisory committee.

"Protecting our water resources is an idea that is tied closely to our improved land-use planning laws," state senator James Gerlach (R) says. "This legislation is intended to help communities work together on watershed planning issues - to protect our natural resources and guard against water shortages and water degradation. It recognizes that water, like land, is a finite and precious resource that must be managed to the best benefit of our people and our environment."

National Ground Water Association

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