Groundwater Depletion: Alternative Water Supply Options for the Coastal Mid-Atlantic
- Ben Wright, Aaron Duke, and Joe Sowinski - Hazen and Sawyer
Communities along much of the Mid-Atlantic coast rely on the coastal plain aquifer system for water supplies. Over the last 10 to 20 years, utilities have had to drill deeper and deeper wells to access new supplies of water as populations and demands have increased. However, many communities in New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia have tapped the deepest aquifers and are still experiencing substantial aquifer drawdown. Therefore, some areas of the region are reaching the sustainable extent of the groundwater resources and are pursuing comprehensive water supply planning studies to identify alternate sources of supply. Supply options include surface water, conservation, desalination, and wastewater reuse, as well as regionalization, to diversify available supplies. Each of these alternatives has its unique drawbacks including high cost, technical feasibility, political hurdles, and public acceptance. Alternately, investment in these supply options can result in new opportunities, such as the ability to sell water to adjacent communities, nutrient reduction from wastewater reuse, and improved resilience to supply disruptions.
This presentation will provide a number of case studies to illustrate the supply planning process and outcomes pursued by utilities currently addressing the challenge of diminishing groundwater supplies. Further, we will provide a triple bottom line framework that we’ve used to enable utilities to compare the full range of economic, environmental, and social considerations when pursuing alternative water resource plans. This presentation will be directly relevant to many utilities in the Chesapeake Region who are facing similar water supply challenges from groundwater depletion.
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