- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 14, 2002

RICHMOND (AP) Gov. Mark R. Warner yesterday signed an executive order setting a goal of making clean drinking water available to 25,000 needy Virginians within the next five years.
On a rainy day in the state capital, Mr. Warner also charged state drought coordinator David Paylor with developing a long-term drought-management plan for the state by April 1. Mr. Warner said that despite the lifting of state water restrictions last month, groundwater deficits remain across the state and could carry into next summer.
"My hope is that we can both learn from some of the lessons, some of the things we did well, some of the things we didn't do too well in how we responded to the drought last year and have better plans going forward into next year," Mr. Warner said.
The executive order would make drinking-water quality a priority in grants the state coordinates for localities, such as Community Development Block Grants. It would also aim to bring 450 streams up to state water-quality standards by 2010.
Though Mr. Warner said it was difficult to estimate costs of the initiative, he said he believed it could be done within existing revenues.
Mr. Warner's proposal also would have the state work with localities in creating regional water plans to ensure adequate supplies of water during times of drought.
Last summer, river and stream levels were so low in central Virginia, the town of Orange cut water off to businesses and considered trucking in emergency supplies from neighboring communities. The University of Virginia contemplated sending students home early in the fall semester to conserve water, Mr. Warner said.
Mr. Warner said such drastic measures possibly could have been avoided if better systems were in place to notify people when conditions were getting worse.
"We're not saying localities haven't done a good job of local water planning, but we're saying the state needs to be your partner in developing regional water plans for the long term," Mr. Warner said.

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