Water Supply Coordinating Council
The state's Water Supply Coordinating Council (WSCC) held its inaugural meeting on June 24, 2004, after legislation passed reestablishing the council with statewide representation. The WSCC is chaired by the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC).
A major accomplishment of this reconstituted body was a complete overhaul of the water-use restrictions. However successful they were in helping cope with the drought of 2002, they were still found by water customers to be too confusing and by DNREC to be unnecessarily difficult to administer. The Green Industry members* of the WSCC lent their assistance to DNREC during 2004 in developing a much more streamlined and simplified set of rules to be adopted as necessary. The expectation is that Delaware should not have to impose any mandatory water use restrictions even with a recurrence of a 2002 drought. These rules may be found here Three-Tier Water Use Rules.
On the supply side the most important accomplishment of the WSCC was to foster the construction of the Newark Reservoir. This was the only supply project that received public funds, which totaled $3.4M for land acquisition. The remainder of the project was supported through the City’s water rates. In April 2006 then-Lt. Gov. John Carney – who was involved very early on in the efforts to improve the water supply when he was with county government – gave the keynote address at the reservoir’s dedication. Also speaking was former Newark Mayor Ron Gardner, who pledged during his terms in office to see that Newark’s chronic water problems were solved once and for all.
- NOTE: WSCC meeting minutes from 2005 to the present can be found on the Delaware public meeting website by choosing "Water Resources" from the "Agency/Board" drop-down menu)
As of the dedication of this reservoir, the mayor got his wish and Newark’s water supply problems were solved, when the Newark Reservoir added over 300 million gallons of supply to the system.
The "Water Self-Sufficiency Act" had just been passed as the WSCC expanded to statewide representation. This required water conservation rates be established for all utilities effected by drought emergencies. All utilities in northern New Castle County have since instituted such rates. The Act also required that future water supplies for northern New Castle County be certified. These certifications are to prove that the four largest utilities have adequate developed supplies to meet normal demands out to 2030 assuming a repeat of the record drought conditions as occurred in 2002. Filings are required every three years. In 2006, the first certification was filed by Artesian Water Company followed by United Water Delaware and subsequently approved by the Public Service Commission. Certifications for the municipal suppliers, the Cities of Wilmington and Newark, were submitted to and approved by the WSCC. Likewise, the second round of filings were submitted and approved in 2009.
Between the 2006 and 2009 filings another project was completed which added yet another deposit to the County’s still-growing water bank. The City of Wilmington had to do some rehabilitation work on Hoopes Reservoir to reinforce the structure. In the process they also increased the height of the spillway by two feet for a very modest incremental cost. Filling the reservoir to this new height has added another 150 million gallons of storage which is available to the City as well as United Water Delaware under their renewable annual contract.
The last of the planned water supply project is now complete: United Water Delaware, as of July 2010, started operation of its Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) Project near Delaware City. This follows Artesian Water Company’s success with ASR, with a starting capacity of 75 million gallons. The planned scalability of this project will enable upwards of 225 million gallons for far-future needs.
All together the utilities have added over 2 billion gallons of new supply since 1999.
The Water Supply Coordinating Council was to sunset in January 2010. However, the body had not completed its mandate and was subsequently extended by SB 72 during the 145th General Assembly.
The law has three main components. In priority order they are:
Extending the life of the WSCC to January 1, 2016 with a directive to update the water supply plans for Kent and Sussex Counties. This is the final task assigned to the WSCC.
Providing the WSCC authority to explore funding mechanisms for conducting planning and monitoring work. This is in anticipation that a necessary expansion of the ground water network in southern New Castle County (SNCC) will require capital outlay.
Housekeeping to the preceding law. This was necessary so that
Completed tasks could be deleted
A new member could formally added (State Climatologist), and
The minimum reporting period can be reduced from semi-annually to annually
DNREC had already commissioned the Delaware Geological Survey (DGS) to assist with these studies and DGS has released its updated report on Ground Water Availability in Kent County.
During 2010 the WSCC conducted the Kent and Sussex water supply plan updates. DNREC also secured funding to pursue phase one of the expanded ground water monitoring network for SNCC. This phase of work consists of rehabilitation and outfitting of several existing observation wells in strategic locations to collect periodic water-level measurements. The next phase of work will consist of the installation of eight additional observation wells in the shallow aquifers, and the final phase will be five deep-aquifer wells. This network will greatly aid our understanding of the region’s water resources.
The WSCC is a major success story in public-private partnerships. The Council's 10 progress reports may be viewed by going to the University of Delaware's Water Resources Agency website and clicking on "Delaware Water Supply Coordinating Council."
* Delaware State Golf Association, Delaware Grounds Management Association, and the Delaware Nursery and Landscape Association.