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From the Desk of Commissioner Candidate Paul Kellett

(6/1) The topic of water resources seems to crop up from time to time. This spring it seems crazy to suggest that we could ever have too little water to meet our needs, but just as a cold winter is followed by a hot summer, a drought will come again. Adams County is different from most areas in that it is the headwaters to all of its streams; it has no reservoirs; and it has an exceptionally poor quality aquifer. Our soil types go from normal to severe drought in 90 days, where the norm is 140 days. I cannot claim that any of this is news to the people of Adams County as voters in 2008 by a 75% majority approved a ten million dollar bond referendum to preserve the water resources of the County.

It is clear that a problem looms. The State of Pennsylvania has designated the Rock and Marsh Creek basins a critical area for resource planning. It is one of only three such areas in the entire state. Such a designation can mean only one thing- the answers are not easy. In this article I will try to explore some of the ideas I have heard and offer some of the pros and cons of each.

Reservoirs: A logical idea, utilized in many parts of the country and a great way of averaging our annual rainfall. Certainly 39 inches of rain is enough to meet any foreseeable need, so just keeping some of the water we get around for the summer months would be great. The problem is: where do we place this new reservoir(s)? The purchase of the land required for both the actual lake and the needed buffers would bankrupt us all. The permitting, engineering, construction as well as the purification and the cost of the water main from the new facility would be astronomical in cost. I just do not see any politician having the political will to take enough land by eminent domain and spend the money needed to build a reservoir in this county.

The big pipe from the Susquehanna: This is the solution proposed by the Gettysburg Municipal Authority. The idea is to bring up to 2 million gallons a day from our neighbors to the east and provide all the water we need. At first glance, this seems great, but the problem is that it is what is known as basin shift. It would move water from the Susquehanna basin to the Monocacy (Potomac River) basin. We are then faced with 2 problems: what do we do with the water once it goes down the drain? And How do we make that water clean enough that our streams do not take on the smell and appearance of an open sewer? The Chesapeake Bay Commission will only allow a certain number of pounds of both nitrogen and phosphorus to be discharged into the streams per day. This number will not increase even if the flow of the stream increases. It is called a maximum daily load. That means as usage increases the need for more advanced (read costly) treatment becomes necessary. Water bills increase and housing becomes less affordable. The streams would also suffer as the increased flow would exacerbate flood events and carve a larger stream channel, destroying natural riparian buffers, causing erosion and siltation.

Limit the expansion of demand: If one considers a water budget to be similar to a household budget, then this answer becomes apparent. If your household budget is set around getting that year-end bonus or the big raise, then tragedy strikes when the increased supply does not come through. If on the other hand, a budget is set that does not count on a big increase, but rather relies on maintaining about the same levels of demand, then a large measure of comfort can be had in knowing that the status quo can be maintained.

The obvious question arises, what can a County Commissioner do about it? Land use is determined not by the County but by the townships and boroughs. However, the County does have the Office of Planning and Development. This office can and should help municipalities work together to set a water budget and examine their ordinances to see that that budget is followed in the future. This is not an easy task and needs to allow for economic growth. It cannot just be a first come only served plan as much needed job growth cannot be displaced by yet another subdivision. Such a new direction is going to take resolve by the new board of commissioners. Remember, it is easy to have resolve in an emergency; it is a mark of leadership to have the resolve to avoid one.

Read other articles from Adams County Commissioner Candidates