Treating water like money: Westminster council talks efficacy of water allocation policy

The City of Westminster Mayor and Common Council are pictured in this file photo.
The City of Westminster Mayor and Common Council are pictured in this file photo. (Alex Mann / Carroll County Times)

The City of Westminster Common Council unanimously approved a revision to the city’s water allocation budget on Monday, Oct. 8 at the first of its twice-monthly meetings after multiple institutions came forward with project proposals requiring water and sewer.

Council members lauded the efficacy of the new allocation policy, which the lawmakers adopted March 26. The policy essentially budgets the city’s water capacity. City staff, with council’s approval, have to revise the budget each time a new project is approved for water and sewer.


“Just as we budget money and other city resources, this is budget for water for the city,” Councilman Gregory Pecoraro told his colleagues. “We have to continually re-evaluate and do it in a very public and transparent way so that everybody in the community that are stakeholders, particularly the development community and others, understand that this is what we have and how we’re allocating it.”

The Carroll County Public Library is seeking to create a community space in the basement of its 50 E. Main Street facility, said William Mackey, director of community planning and development. “It’s basically a commercial kitchen, per discussions with library leadership … the permit is expected to double the actual space at the library.”

The Boys & Girls Club of Westminster is also accelerating plans to create a gymnasium at its 71 E. Main Street facility.

“Both of these projects are expected to move forward quickly,” Mackey said.

Westminster has a finite water and sewer supply and must, per Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) regulations, maintain a certain amount of water in reserve, council members explained.

Mayor and Common Council approved a revised water and sewer policy in time for increased allocation ability after a local well went online this month.

Accommodating new projects requires that the city refer to its master water distribution chart, which details the amount of water allocated to each establishment — homes, developments, city-owned property, industrial facilities, and more — and the amount of water that remains. The chart employs a credit and debit system akin to a balance sheet.

Spread across seven years (2018-2024), Westminster has a total of 173,447 gallons of water per day and 300,000 gallons per day sewer capacity, according to the master chart. Such a system allows the city to allocate to accommodate projects.

The library project was allocated 1,300 gallons of water per day, while the Boys and Girls Club gymnasium garnered 252 gallons per day, the chart shows.


Also included were 705 gallons of water per day split between three smaller projects — single-family homes and duplexes — and 120 gallons per day, sewer only, for St. Benjamin’s Church, which has requested a connection to city sewer.

“I hope that over time the community that needs the water will start understanding better what the process is and the timelines and what’s out there,” Councilman Tony Chiavacci said. “Because I know that even still today we occasionally have people coming up and kind of barking at us about, you know, they need water for this and that.

“It’s not the good ol’ days where you happen to know somebody and you get what you need. It’s a process and it’s being done the right way.”

After the chart was updated to include the library, gymnasium, residential and church projects, it shows that the city has 68,269 and 97,987 gallons per day for water and sewer.

“I think the process that we’ve all put in place is working very well,” Pecoraro said. “I’m confident that as we work through our water issues and also sewer issues, which are equally pressing, this is going to be a very good process for us to manage any additional water and sewer capacity.”