It was just for this purpose that the Water Resource Management and Protection Act was created.
is well known for rich mineral resources: coal, now gas. WV is also known to
have abundant water sources. The state has nearly 40,000 stream miles—that’s
almost enough to circle the globe twice. And in a world where increasing
populations are increasing water demands, water sources are becoming
It was the beginning of the century when Sen. John Unger
saw and acted on the need to manage the water resources of the state.
“In 2001 and 2003 there was a drought in the eastern part of
WV,” Unger says. “That strained a lot of the water supplies and also, I saw a
lot of development pressures brought to bear on our water resources. Also
during that time there was a supreme court battle going on between Maryland
and Virginia over the Potomac
dispute between MD and VA happened because VA wanted to build a 725-foot water
intake structure to supply water to northern Virginia, the site of some of
Washington D.C.’s growing suburbs. MD denied the permit.
In 2003 the US Supreme
Court ruled in favor of VA, but the ruling left open the question of what law
will be applied when, in the future, Maryland objects to the amount Virginia
withdraws – an objection that, given the growth of Virginia’s D.C. suburbs, may
Sen. Unger also became acutely aware of the shift in the
value of water resources economically while working at the National Energy
Technology Laboratory in Morgantown.
“Water became no longer just a life sustaining resource, and
just a by-product of energy, it’s actually an energy producer,” Unger says.
are looking at areas where they can get water supplies and other states don’t
have it. We hear horror stories from Georgia
and some if the southern states because they don’t have these natural
resources, or even out in California
the same thing is occurring. But here in WV, we have that resource and we have
to make sure we protect it and manage it so that everybody can utilize the
resource where it will not be depleted or taken from our citizens.”
With all this in mind, Unger wrote an act that first and
foremost, claimed West Virginia’s waters as a public resource held by the state
for the use and benefit of its citizens.
“Up until that point we had only taken claim to the land,”
Unger says, “but not the water. And so this act did that. The second thing it
did was create a survey and an inventory on all our water resources, to
establish what we have so that we can consider usage so that we can better
In March of 2004, the WV DEP prepared a large quantity user
survey. WV DEP Water Use Section Program Manager Brian Carr was involved in the
“Basically anyone withdrawing more than 750,000 gallons per
calendar month was to be surveyed and their quantities recorded,” Carr
“A report was submitted to the legislature in December of 2006 by the
DEP, and that report recommended continuation of the large-quantity survey, of
course gave results of that survey, and also suggested improvement of the
service and groundwater monitoring networks across the state and further review
of the existing databases that contain water quantity information.”
The act also calls for a Water Resource Management Plan to
be submitted by the DEP by 2013. Unger says the plan has been almost ten years
in the making because legislators wanted to be sure that any management plan
applied in the state would be based on sound science, compiled from recent data
collected from within West Virginia.
Carr says that today, the DEP is working on crunching the
2011 numbers to report current water usage in the state to the legislature.
“We’re also working with the USGS to evaluate the condition
of the state-wide water gauging network in order to evaluate its overall
regional coverage and to define any need for additional stream gauges in the
state. This will also allow us to improve the capabilities of the water withdrawal guidance tool that we developed several years ago.”
“That tool,” Carr adds, “provides the public a place to go
and look to see where water should not be withdrawn.”
Carr says that the DEP has been developing a special
Marcellus Frac Water Reporting database that deals specifically with where
water resources required by the natural gas industry are coming from and going
Additionally, the DEP has been conducting watershed meetings across the
state to address concerns of local community stakeholders and to identify local
area water resource needs. Carr hopes all this information and more will be
available to the public by the time the Water Resource Management Plan is
submitted to the WV Legislators in November of 2013.