RD343 - Status of Virginia’s Water Resources: A Report on Virginia’s Water Resources Management Activities – October 2017

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 2016 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).


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 of local data 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 required updates to their local water supply plans (required by December 2018). Comparison of annual water 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. Additional information is obtained through the private water well registration program, which enables DEQ and VDH to receive water well completion reports. As of December 31, 2016, 2,538 water well completion reports have been submitted online through the private water well registration program, with approximately 80% of the reported wells located in a designated GWMA.


While the Virginia Coastal Plain Groundwater Initiative has been successful in reducing permitted withdrawals from the coastal plain aquifer system by about 50%, additional work needs to be done to ensure the availability of the aquifer system as a reliable water source for the future. Some short-term groundwater level recovery has been seen south of the James River since the reduction in water withdrawals by International Paper in 2011, increased use by the plant since then and others who have unused permitted amounts has resulted in a leveling off of the groundwater level improvements. DEQ is continuing to work with permitted facilities to decrease net withdrawals, to identify alternate sources of water, and to investigate other innovative ways to increase supplies in order to maintain groundwater productivity and availability over the next 50 years.

At the direction of the General Assembly, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission published its report titled “Effectiveness of Virginia’s Water Resource Planning and Management” in October 2016. The report confirmed DEQ’s findings that available groundwater supplies in the Eastern Virginia GWMA were insufficient to meet the demands of current and future groundwater users. In addition, the report validated DEQ’s utilization of the VA Hydro-GW model as an appropriate tool to predict the sustainability of groundwater in eastern Virginia. 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,” held meetings during March, April, May, June, and July 2017. The committee presented its recommendations to the State Water Commission and the DEQ Director on August 4, 2017. The DEQ Director will issue a report responding to the Committee’s recommendations by November 1, 2017 pursuant to Va. Code § 62.1-256.1 C. Information about the activities of the Committee is posted on the DEQ Eastern Virginia Groundwater Management Advisory Committee webpage.


Water withdrawals were reported in January 2017 by over 1,300 facilities for calendar year 2016. Compared to the five-year (2012-2016) average, the total volume of reported withdrawals from all water use categories (including power generation) decreased by approximately 4%. However, the total volume of reported withdrawals increased by 1% excluding the power generation use categories.

Surface water withdrawals had a higher proportion of the total water withdrawal volume by source type in 2016, which is comparable to 2012 through 2015. Surface water withdrawals also accounted for approximately 89% of total withdrawal volumes in 2016 (excluding withdrawals for power generation), which is equivalent to previous years. Analysis of the spatial distribution of 2016 water withdrawals in Virginia indicates that, as in previous years, the largest groundwater withdrawals by volume predominantly occurred in the Coastal Plain, Eastern Shore, and Shenandoah Valley regions.

Withdrawals for Public Water Supply and for Manufacturing were again the largest sources of withdrawals for 2016 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 by volume.