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Virginia's groundwater must be managed

Date published: 1/8/2013

In response to a substantial body of scientific evidence that demonstrates a growing threat to the groundwater supply of the Virginia coastal plain, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has recommended expanding the Eastern Virginia Groundwater Management Area to include the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula.

Like many policy issues that involve the management of natural resources, managing the groundwater supply fires up a lot of nerve endings.

Several truths demonstrate the critical need for groundwater management. First, residents of the coastal plain have been pumping vast volumes of water from the underground reservoir for more than a century and now withdraw more than 120 million gallons of water every day.

Second, the supply of groundwater is finite and is not replenished at a rate that makes up the losses due to pumping. The immense imbalance between discharge (pumping) and recharge (replenishment) has thrust the groundwater supply into chronic overdraft.

Third, absent effective management rules, the loss of supply will continue to accelerate as population grows and the economy expands.

The supply of groundwater is shrinking steadily and alarmingly. Unless this problem is addressed quickly, every resident of the Virginia coastal plain will suffer the costly consequences of water shortages and conflicts.

Despite fanciful allegations of blinkered ideologues, the proposed regulations do not have their origin in a conspiracy by shadowy bureaucrats to extend their malevolent control over the residents of the Old Dominion.

The purpose of the proposed regulations is to ensure a safe and reliable supply of groundwater for all. These regulations fulfill a duty spelled out in Article XI of the Virginia constitution to protect the water of the commonwealth from "pollution, impairment, or destruction."

Frank W. Fletcher