Harford may need new water sources in the future, DPW engineer says

Harford County may have to look for new sources of water in the future, but the county's quest for water is not as crucial as originally projected in light of slowing population growth, a county engineer told the county council Tuesday.

The county will not necessarily be able to depend on Baltimore City for its future water supply, Darryl Ivins, civil engineer for the water and sewer division, explained.

The council is getting ready to vote on a resolution to update the county's water and sewer plan. Ivins briefed council members on the update during a public hearing on the resolution.

The county can serve people within the development envelope until about 2038 under certain conditions, Ivins said. The envelope roughly spans the Route 40 corridor and runs along Route 24 from Edgewood through Bel Air and Forest Hill.

Ivins said the county needs to think now about how to provide sources of additional water in the future.

"The likelihood of inexpensive solutions to the problem is very slim," he said.

The county is expected to have a population of 277,320 by 2025, slightly fewer than the 282,965 projected earlier. The county's population in 2010 was 244,826 people.

Council President Billy Boniface said the slowed growth does buy Harford some time.

"I think it's safe to say we have got our issues with water, but one saving grace is the U.S. Census numbers have really helped us, as far as our capital projects for the future," he said. "At least we are not under the gun to do so much up front."

Baltimore City has been largely providing water to Harford County since 1992 through multiple sources, mainly Loch Raven Reservoir and, on occasion, the Susquehanna River through the city's aqueduct that runs through Harford.

The county ultimately hopes to acquire an additional 20 million gallons of water daily to satisfy both its water service area and those of the City of Aberdeen, Aberdeen Proving Ground and the Town of Bel Air, the latter which is served by a private water company, Maryland American.

Baltimore City was not receptive to that request and the county ultimately signed an agreement for only a 15-million-gallon increase, according to Ivins.

Councilman Joe Woods asked about the possibility of getting water from the Susquehanna River north of Conowingo Dam, but Ivins replied that is controlled by the Susquehanna River Basin Commission. The Baltimore City intake is north of the dam.

Woods, however, said: "The amount of water that is behind the dam itself is a very large reservoir. Even if that basin commission was completely not allowing us, I think we have good legal reasons to [force them]."

Councilwoman Mary Ann Lisanti noted the dam relies on the water to create electricity.

The water and sewer plan update revises the projected water supply demands based on the new census data and shows the latest water treatment plant production capacities.

For example, the Perryman wellfield's capacity will decrease to 4.4 million gallons daily because development will decrease the impervious surface in the area, which will reduce the field's ability to recharge its water supply, Ivins said.

The capacity of the county's portion of the Havre de Grace's water treatment plant will rise to 5.4 million gallons daily because another treatment unit can be added, but water coming from that source will decrease to zero because the city can buy back all the water that it needs for the city to grow, he said. The Havre de Grace plant draws water from the Susquehanna directly off the city's waterfront.

The state is also conducting a new study of the piedmont and coastal plain regions because of concern that water resources are over allocated, another public works representative told the council.

The plan update would also add a handful of new, planned developments to the water and sewer map, namely: the 16-home Hamilton Reserve II in Fallston, the 33-home O'Connell property in Bel Air, and the 172-home Laurel Ridge subdivision planned in Bel Air South, all of which have provoked some public outcry.

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