RD224 - 2013 Report on the Status of Virginia's Water Resources: A Report on Virginia's Water Resources Management Activities

Executive Summary:
This annual report, submitted to the Governor and the Virginia General Assembly in accordance with § 62.1-44.40 of the Code of Virginia, describes the status of the Commonwealth’s surface and groundwater resources, provides an overview of climatological conditions and impacts on water supplies in the Commonwealth, and provides an update on the Commonwealth’s Water Resources Management Program for the calendar year 2012, as well as an update regarding current 2013 conditions. Water quantity is the focus of this report. Water quality issues are addressed in the State’s Water Quality Assessment Report which can be found at http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/Water/WaterQualityInformationTMDLs/WaterQualityAssessments/2012305(b)303(d)IntegratedReport.aspx.

Virginia’s estimated 52,232 miles of streams and rivers are part of nine major watersheds. Annual state-wide rainfall averages almost 43 inches. The total combined flow of all freshwater streams in the state is estimated at about 25 billion gallons per day. The 248 publicly owned lakes in the Commonwealth have a combined surface area of 130,344 acres. Additionally, many hundreds of other small privately owned lakes and ponds are distributed throughout the state. Other significant water features of Virginia include approximately 236,900 acres of tidal and coastal wetlands, 808,000 acres of freshwater wetlands, 120 miles of Atlantic Ocean coastline, and more than 2,300 square miles of estuaries. A summary of Virginia’s surface water resources is provided in Appendix 1.

Precipitation in Virginia during the 2012-2013 water year (October 1, 2012 through September 30, 2013) has been variable both spatially and temporally. After a very dry first quarter, especially November and December 2012, precipitation has gradually increased throughout 2013. Consequently, summertime groundwater levels and stream flows were well above normal throughout Virginia.

Groundwater levels west of I-95 and in shallow aquifers east of I-95 generally align with surface water levels. However, water levels in confined aquifers within the Atlantic Coastal Plain continued to decline. In the Franklin area, this decline was temporarily reversed by the shutdown of the International Paper Franklin mill during 2011. This mill, however, reopened in June of 2012 at a lower water withdrawal rate. Groundwater levels within confined-aquifer observation wells in the region surrounding the mill are slowly responding to these changes. Water levels have begun to decline in wells near the mill, while in other wells farther away levels have continued to rise. Due to the lag time in responses to potentiometric changes in the confined aquifer system, water levels in these wells will eventually resume a declining trend.

The Office of Water Supply is a part of the Water Division of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). The Office currently consists of three programs, including Groundwater Characterization, Water Supply Planning, and Water Withdrawal Permitting (See Section III for summaries of programs). The Office of Water Supply collaborates with other state and federal programs to support local water resources planning. Programmatic highlights of the Office of Water Supply during 2012 include:

• Monitoring of 68 surface water stations, 78 real-time groundwater stations and 181 additional wells, and 37 Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) data sites. (Real-time data are collected at 15-60 minute intervals and transmitted to viewable databases every 1-4 hours)

• Four new real-time observation wells were installed in Northumberland and Accomack counties, and a 1343 ft. deep exploratory core hole in Westmoreland County was reconstructed and converted into a groundwater level monitoring well

• Geophysical logging of two core holes in Suffolk and Isle of Wight counties to assist in refining the hydrogeologic framework as it relates to the Chesapeake Bay impact structure and its influence on groundwater availability in the Coastal Plain

• Two groundwater resource reports (Groundwater Resources of the Blue Ridge Geologic Province and Groundwater Use in the Virginia Portion of the Shenandoah Valley) were published and are available on line at http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/Water/WaterSupplyWaterQuantity/GroundwaterCharacterization/ReportsPublications.aspx

• The Groundwater Completion Report database was expanded and now includes approximately 57,000 digital water well records

• The locations of 496 springs were verified using both Global Positioning System (GPS) and Geographic Information System (GIS) techniques and an additional 34 new spring locations were documented

• Teaching and speaking engagements were conducted at four groundwater-related educational events

• Continued compliance review for 38 regional water supply plans and 10 local water supply plans, including the development of a water supply plan database with nearly 100,000 data points

• Completion of work with the State Water Plan Advisory Committee to assist DEQ in developing, revising, and implementing the state water resources plan. The committee issued a final report in December 2012. The report can be found at: http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Portals/0/DEQ/Water/WaterSupplyPlanning/WSPAC_Final_Report.pdf

• Issuance of 24 groundwater withdrawal permits (15 new or expanded, 9 renewals)

• Issuance of 9 Virginia Water Protection (VWP) Program permits (3 new, 6 modifications)

• Continued management of the annual water-withdrawal reporting program. Withdrawals were reported for the 2012 calendar year by 993 user facilities from approximately 2938 withdrawal measuring points. The reported totals for 2012 exceeded 7 billion gallons per day (including withdrawals for power generation). (Sections IV, V and VI)

• Observation of continued demands on surface and groundwater resources (Section V)

• Further development of the plan to incorporate new hydrogeologic information on the coastal plain aquifer system into the groundwater withdrawal permitting regulatory process used to evaluate the impacts of existing and proposed groundwater withdrawals within the Coastal Plain and Eastern Shore regions (Section VI)

• The expansion of the Eastern Virginia Groundwater Management area to include the counties in the Northern Neck region of the Virginia Coastal Plain. The expansion was adopted by the State Water Control Board during its June 2013 meeting (Section VII)

• Continued development of new statistical tools to predict summer low flows in streams based upon rainfall and stream flow monitoring data collected during the previous winter (Section VII)

Virginia’s public health, environment, and economic growth depend on the availability of quality water resources. To assure water resources are available for future generations and the continued growth of Virginia, effective water resource management must continue to be premised on a process that improves the quality and quantity of water available to the Commonwealth.