RD309 - Status of Virginia's Water Resources: A Report on Virginia's Water Resources Management Activities (2016) - October 2016

Executive Summary:
The Report on Virginia’s Water Resources Management Activities (Annual Report) is submitted in October of each year to the Governor and the Virginia General Assembly in accordance with § 62.1-44.40 of the Code of Virginia. The Annual Report focuses on water quantity and supply, summarizing reported water withdrawals for the 2015 calendar year, discussing water withdrawal trends, and providing an update on the Commonwealth’s water resources management activities. The Annual Report also serves as a status report concerning the State Water Resources Plan between five year planning updates.

Water quality issues are addressed in the most recent biennial Water Quality Assessment Integrated Report, published by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

State Water Resources Plan

The State Water Resources Plan was finalized and released to the public in October 2015. The State Water Resources Plan identified some potential areas of concern as well as challenges for future water resources management and recommendations for action.

Data analysis conducted during development of the State Water Resources Plan predicted a net increase of approximately 32% in mean daily water demand over the planning period, indicating that an estimated 450 MGD of additional water will be needed to meet projected 2040 demands.

Cumulative impact analyses have indicated that projected surface water withdrawal increases may result in negative impacts during future drought situations, particularly within the James, Potomac-Shenandoah, and York River basins. These areas are prioritized for planning discussions regarding needed updates to their local water supply plans (required by December 2018).

Comparison of withdrawals reported under the regulatory reporting requirement with water use estimates from the water supply plans indicates that water withdrawals from several categories may be under-reported. This has led to increased efforts to improve reporting which were initially targeted at golf courses and the agricultural community. Outreach to other water use categories will be conducted over the next couple of years.

Coastal Plain Aquifer

Groundwater levels are still declining north of the James River. While some short-term groundwater level recovery has been seen south of the James River since the reduction in water withdrawal by International Paper in 2011, increased use by the plant and others who have unused permitted amounts is expected to result in a return to groundwater level declines.

In response to the observed groundwater level declines, discussions with each of the top 14 groundwater users continued in 2015 under the Virginia Coastal Plain Groundwater Initiative in an effort to evaluate reductions in permitted volumes. DEQ continues to work on re-issuing permits for all 14 facilities. Stabilization of groundwater level declines in the aquifer cannot be achieved without withdrawal reductions, which in turn, will lay the foundation for long term solutions.

The Eastern Virginia Groundwater Management Advisory Committee, established pursuant to Va. Code § 62.1-256.1, to assist the State Water Commission and DEQ in “developing, revising, and implementing a management strategy for groundwater in the Eastern Virginia Groundwater Management Area”, convened its first meeting on August 18, 2015 and is due to present its recommendations to the State Water Commission and the DEQ Director no later than August 1, 2017. Information about the activities of the Committee is posted on DEQ’s web site.

Water Withdrawals

Water withdrawals were reported in January 2016 by over 1,200 user facilities for calendar year 2015. Compared to 2014, total reported withdrawals from all water use categories decreased by about 5% whereas reported withdrawals increased by 6% when excluding the power generation use categories.

Surface water withdrawals had a higher proportion of the total withdrawal rate by source type in 2015 as compared to 2014 and 2013. Surface water withdrawals accounted for 90% of total withdrawals in 2015, which is roughly 2% higher than the previous years.

Analysis of the spatial distribution of 2015 water withdrawals in Virginia indicates that as in previous years, the largest groundwater withdrawals predominantly occurred in the Coastal Plain, Eastern Shore, and Shenandoah Valley regions.

Withdrawals for Public Water Supply and for Manufacturing were again the largest source of withdrawals for 2015 and for the average of the previous five-year period. Manufacturing makes up the highest proportion of groundwater withdrawals whereas public water supply use accounts for the greatest proportion surface water withdrawals.