The focus of this month’s blog is on Chapter 5: Water Resources Element. The purpose of the Water Resources Element is to establish a clear relationship between existing and proposed future development, the drinking water sources and waste water facilities that will be necessary to serve that development, and measures to limit or control the stormwater and non-point source water pollution that will be generated by new development. The County’s eight municipalities develop their own Comprehensive Plans with their own Water Resources Elements. The County’s Comprehensive Plan attempts to compile – to the greatest degree possible – the data necessary to link water resources, growth and land use for the County and for the towns.
The Water Resources goals for the County are to:
- In cooperation with the County’s municipalities, maintain a safe and adequate water supply, and adequate amounts of wastewater treatment capacity to serve projected growth.
- Take steps to protect and restore water quality, and to meet water quality regulatory requirements in the county’s rivers and streams.
Objectives to support the goals are listed below.
- Assure that existing and planned public water systems meet projected demand.
- Assure that existing and planned public wastewater collection and treatment systems meet projected demand without exceeding their permitted capacity.
- Assure that the County’s stormwater management policies reflect the most recent state requirements.
- Pursue land use patterns that limit adverse impacts on water quality.
The Water Resources Element first conducts a drinking water assessment by identifying public water systems by watershed, then giving an overview of private residential water systems in the county, as well as commercial and agricultural water usage. Next in this chapter an identification of drinking water issues is undertaken, including unmet future demand on public systems and water quality concerns. An investigation of potential new groundwater and surface water supplies is then conducted.
In the wastewater section of this chapter an evaluation of existing conditions and public systems by watershed is followed by an identification of issues involving public sewer systems, point source discharge limits, and alternative wastewater disposal options. Next a programmatic assessment of nonpoint source polices and a discussion of total nutrient loads and assimilative capacity is held.
At the end of this assessment the following policies and actions were recommended. The status of these recommendations are in italic after each recommendation.
- Use data from the planned regional water resources study (Garrett, Allegany, and Mineral Counties) in future Comprehensive Plan updates to guide growth and development decisions. The referenced study was not completed.
- Work with appropriate federal, state, and local authorities as necessary to identify additional sources of water necessary to serve projected demands. In particular, work with the Town of Frostburg to evaluate the possibility of drawing water from Piney Run Reservoir to serve the Finzel community. The 2015 Garrett County Water & Sewer Master Plan evaluates projected growth and the means that will be necessary to service those needs.
- Amend the Sensitive Areas Ordinance to limit development in—and establish buffers around—Source Water Protection Areas, as defined in the Source Water Protection Plan. This is complete.
- Review the County’s building and land development codes to ensure that water conserving fixtures and appliances are required for all new development and retrofits outside of public water systems. The advent of federal requirements and manufacturer changes made this recommendation obsolete.
- Consider requiring all new development outside of existing or planned public sewer service areas to use septic denitrification systems. No requirement to use denitrification systems has been instituted outside of the Bay watershed.
- Explore incentives to encourage property owners to:
o Install water conserving fixtures and appliances. Federal requirements and manufacturer changes made this recommendation obsolete.
o Install septic denitrification units on existing septic systems. The Dept of Environmental Health uses ‘flush tax’ money to help owners pay for installation of these systems should they choose to to install them.
- Continue to resolve I/I problems in the Friendsville and Trout Run sewer systems. This is on-going.
- Consider upgrading the Trout Run WWTP to BNR (or ENR) technology. This is not complete.
- Continue to work with MDE to determine whether the County can receive nutrient credits for providing sewer service to properties with septic systems (especially failing systems). This is on-going.
- As part of the next Comprehensive Plan update, re-run the nonpoint source loading analysis, incorporating up-to-date land use and any changes to the state’s default model. This will be explored during the next Comprehensive Plan cycle.
- Consider adopting a nutrient trading program that conforms to MDE regulations and guidelines. This is not complete.
- Continue to support land preservation activities such as MALPF and Rural Legacy, and specifically encourage such activities (including the purchase of land by private conservation organizations) on land that drains to Tier II waters in the County, and in watersheds where impervious coverage approaches or exceeds 10 percent. The Planning & Land Management Department continues to administer the MALPF program and the County’s preservation district acquisition program.
- Consider stormwater management retrofits targeted to areas where runoff impacts sensitive environmental features (see policy 7 in Chapter 7, the Sensitive Areas Element). This is on-going.
- Work with MDE to monitor natural gas development activities to ensure the safety of the ground and surface water supplies. This is on-going.
- Amend the Stormwater Management Ordinance, the Deep Creek Lake Watershed Zoning Ordinance, and the stormwater provisions of the Subdivision Ordinance as follows:
o Adopt the Maryland Stormwater Design Manual, as revised by MDE to reflect provisions of the Stormwater Management Act of 2007 (anticipated to be completed by 2008), as the County’s governing stormwater regulations for new development. This is complete.
o Adopt future MDE guidelines and recommendations for using Environmentally Sensitive Design (ESD) in new development. This is complete.
- Monitor the activities of and opportunities presented by US EPA’s Mississippi River Basin and Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force. This is on-going.
Next month’s blog will feature Chapter 6 of the 2008 Comprehensive Plan: Transportation Element.