Develop a comprehensive water-supply strategy
North Carolina has been blessed with an ample water supply. As a result of this abundance there are no restrictions on how our citizens and businesses use water in most areas of the state.1 However, as recent droughts have shown us, water is truly a finite natural resource. Our state should have a comprehensive plan that recognizes this reality. However water is a finite natural resource and clean water delivery is not equal across our state. Our state should adopt a water resources planning and coordination plan that recognizes this reality.
Today, many of our water-management policies are determined at the local level, as towns and communities develop distinct water-supply plans. This haphazard approach makes our water supply less secure. It also makes us less competitive. As Virginia and South Carolina2 modify their water supply polices to recruit businesses, our outdated approach weakens our ability to recruit large, industrial businesses to our state and adequately serve all residents.
South Carolina recently passed a water resource planning and coordination act that formulates and establishes water resource policies for the state including coordination of policies between departments and agencies. Virginia, like South Carolina, has a state water control board that promulgates Virginia’s water regulations covering a variety of permits, permit fees, ground water management areas and withdrawals, and petroleum storage tanks.
As our population continues to grow, the management of this finite resource becomes more difficult, and a comprehensive system will protect this critical resource. There is too much at stake to tolerate our patchwork management of water.
As initial steps are taken toward the development of a comprehensive strategy, our leaders should embrace three distinct water-supply policies:
Recommendation #1: Adopt best practices concerning water management. This leadership effort should be initiated at the state level with a plan to distribute the management practices to our local communities and cities.
Recommendation #2: Create an integrated water-management system. An integrated water-management system is a process that promotes the coordinated development and management of water, land and other resources in order to maximize economic and social welfare without compromising vital natural resources.3
Recommendation #3: Amend the permitting processes that manage large water withdrawals.
Implementing these recommendations would be a strong step towards ensuring our vitality and creating assurances for business, industry, and agricultural interests that they will have a secure water infrastructure, while also protecting the public from drinking water contamination.