Residents have one week left to comment on a draft statewide water plan before the Water Planning Council moves forward with a final document.
The council is due to present its final water report, the first for Connecticut, to the legislature by Jan. 1. The legislature will then vote on the document sometime during its next session.
John H. Betkoski, chairman of the planning council and vice chairman of the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, said in a webinar on the WPC’s website that Connecticut has “historically...enjoyed a bountiful amount of water.” That has changed due to several factors, prompting the state to look at a plan for how to respond should it face significant water issues.
“Recent events and unique factors in the state have created a need to evaluate water management options for the future,” Betkoski said in the roughly 30-minute video. “Water is our most important natural resource. Here in Connecticut, we often take it for granted.”
Some of those factors, according to the report, include economic development, increased awareness of contaminants, and climate change.
The 612-page report, viewable at www.ct.gov/water, contains a wide range of recommendations on how the state should plan for water usage, including encourage regional cooperation between towns with vast water supplies and those that face shortages. Comments can also be submitted to that website.
It also includes maps, charts, and other data on water in the state, looking at drinkable and non-drinkable water, precipitation, and other information relative to the state’s water levels.
Rep. Mary Mushinsky, D-Wallingford, long a proponent of a statewide study, is urging residents to submit their comments to the WPC prior to its 4 p.m. deadline on Nov. 20. She noted that the council makes very generic or, in some cases, no recommendations on some issues, as members couldn’t reach a consensus or felt they didn’t have enough information.
Mushinsky, who estimates she’s been pushing for a plan for 20 years, said residents in the Quinnipiac River water basin should be focused on the plan — one of its objectives is to share water betweens regions — because the area has had experiences with water shortage.
“If you’ve lived in Wallingford, you’ve seen this,” Mushinsky said. “You’ve seen harsh times.”
Mushinsky said the momentum to create a plan came after concerns over the University of Connecticut’s plan to draw water from the Farmington River for its Storrs campus.
That plan drew criticism in 2013, and the legislature in 2014 ordered the WPC, created in 2001, to come up with a plan.
The council is comprised of representatives from PURA and the departments of Energy and Environmental Protection and Public Health, the three agencies that regulate water use, and the Office of Policy and Management.
The draft plan includes 77 pages of recommendations, including encouraging regionalization, the need to balance economic development with usages for residents and wildlife, and adjusting for climate change. The WPC website also has a 26-page executive summary.
The draft plan cites several concerns with climate change, including a growing disparity of heavy periods of rain and droughts, and the need to be prepared for storms with significant rainfall.
Other recommendations including encouraging the farming of crops that use less water, conservation within outdoor uses, and even the increased use of non-drinkable, or Class B, water when safe. It recommends offering incentives when necessary.
Mushinksy said one issue she wants to see addressed in the plan is registered water diversions, which are permitted uses, such as agriculture, that draw large amounts of water. The draft plan notes the issue, but makes no recommendations.
Mushinsky suggested that in overdrawn basins like the Quinnipiac, such diversions be granted as 20-year permits, and not as indefinite allowances.
The draft plan recommends the document be revised and updated every five years.
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