- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 20, 2002

FREDERICK, Md. The growth of upstream communities could nearly deplete the water supply for the Washington metropolitan area during a severe drought by 2030, a government report on the Potomac River Basin concludes.

Already, water consumption threatens to exceed the lowest historical minimum flow rates of Potomac tributaries in Frederick County, Md., and neighboring areas of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia, according to the report by the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin.

"We need to better plan for the development, the utilization and the management of our water resources," Joseph Hoffman, executive director of the interstate agency, said June 7 during a presentation on the current drought.

The report, commissioned by the Maryland Department of the Environment, will be delivered to the Maryland General Assembly on July 1. It implies a need to conserve more water, develop more water resources or both, said Matthew Pajerowski, chief of the environment department's water rights division.

Additional resources could include increasing reservoir storage, tapping another river system or digging more wells, Mr. Pajerowski said. The environment department will not make any recommendations until after the General Assembly has reviewed the report and two others on Potomac River water supply and demand that are due at the same time, he said.

The Potomac watershed covers 14,670 square miles in parts of Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. About 70 percent of the region's 5.1 million residents live in the Washington metropolitan area, which draws virtually all of its water from the Potomac.

The report looked at consumptive water use, characterized by activities such as drinking, livestock watering, car washing, irrigation and commercial cooling, in which water is consumed, evaporated or incorporated into products instead of being returned directly to a waterway. During the warm months of June through August, households account for about half of consumptive water use, the report shows.

The report forecasts a 31 percent population increase in the region between 2000 and 2030. During the same period, it predicts a 23 percent increase in consumptive water use, to 158.6 million gallons per day.

"For the Washington metropolitan area, resources will be adequate to meet demands in the year 2030 under a repeat of the historical drought of record, but resources would be nearly depleted in this scenario," the report concludes.

The Potomac River supply for upstream communities would be adequate, the report found.

Along Potomac tributaries, however, two of seven areas studied "may not have enough flow to meet current and predicted consumptive demand during a repeat of the lowest historical minimum flow," the researchers found.

Those areas include Frederick County and parts of Carroll and Montgomery counties in Maryland; southwestern Adams County, Pa.; and parts of Loudoun, Fauquier and Fairfax counties in Virginia.

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