Draft New Kent water supply plan projects deficits
A draft study and plan detailing New Kent’s future water sources and uses is in county supervisors’ hands. And based on projections in the plan, which covers the next 50 years, water is fast becoming a more precious — and expensive — commodity.
The draft Water Supply Plan, prepared by the outside firm URS Corporation at a cost of $550,000, projects the county could face a 1.5 million gallon per day deficit in the year 2060. And certain areas of the county, based on expected development, could experience water shortages as early as 2017, the plan notes.
For now, the county depends solely on groundwater as its potable source. That will have to change according to the plan, meaning new sources must be tapped. Recommended alternatives to offset the projected deficit are buying water from the city of Richmond and using reverse osmosis to treat water taken from the Pamunkey River. Both, however, entail considerable expense.
But the plan also points out that the county is not required to pursue either alternative. County officials have freedom to explore other potential sources, including those spurred by technological innovations.
Board members, however, must approve and submit the plan to the state’s Department of Environmental Quality by a Nov. 2 deadline. A public hearing on the draft document took place during the board’s Sept. 13 meeting, and comments are being accepted through Oct. 12 (e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, fax 966-7135, phone 966-9678, or mail to Michael Lang, NK Dept. of Public Utilities, 7051 Poindexter Rd., New Kent, Va. 23124).
The plan is available for view at the administration building, public utilities department, and Heritage Public Library.
Supervisors, meanwhile, are studying the plan and could take action during their Oct. 12 meeting.
Last week’s public hearing drew little attention and only one speaker. County resident Bill O’Keefe accused the plan’s authors of “piling assumption upon assumption, and most likely it’s wrong.”
Relying on the draft document to make a decision would be unwise, he told supervisors. He urged the board to consult with the Virginia Association of Counties to change the law requiring a study and seek to solve future water supply issues on a regional rather than local basis.
County public utilities director Larry Dame said public and board concerns are being delivered to a water supply plan advisory committee run by the state. The group meets four times a year should convene sometime in November, he said.
If adopted, the plan is not set in stone. Revisions and amendments can be made at least every five years, and the plan is automatically up for review every 10 years.
In other matters at the board’s Sept. 13 meeting, residents operating the county’s Brown Bag food program urged supervisors to hasten a decision on who gets to occupy what is now dubbed the “historic school” at New Kent Courthouse.
Brown Bag representatives are lobbying for use of the school’s cafeteria and walk-in freezer. For now, the program is spread across nine churches in the county for food storage since the distribution center at Cumberland Community Center lacks storage capacity.
Afterward, county administrator Cabell Lawton said an effort is under way to pull together all groups interested in utilizing the old school’s buildings. Currently, the Extension service and county parks and recreation department are tenants, and Heritage Public Library and the county’s School Board are expected to take up residency.
“The schools have some concerns about their use of [the cafeteria], and we need to get them together,” he said, adding that the school system could be seeking a shared use agreement in order to host a culinary instruction program.
The goal is to have details ironed out by November so that the Brown Bag program can move in, he said.
“What is unknown is the state of the equipment,” he added. “I believe it’s been several years since the freezer was used.”
Once usage arrangements have been ironed out, he said, the matter is to be brought back before supervisors for approval.