Meeting the needs of existing and future populations requires that the Commonwealth’s drinking water resources must be preserved and replenished. An essential part of sound water resource management is the careful, efficient use of drinking water or conservation.
Drinking water conservation can have major environmental, public health, and economic benefits. Reducing drinking water demand through conservation helps improve water quality, protect drinking water resources and maintain aquatic ecosystems. As the demand for drinking water increases with population, the synergistic link between water quality and water quantity becomes more important. Water conservation is one way of achieving water quality and quantity goals. The efficient use of drinking water can also prevent pollution by reducing wastewater flows and using less energy.
The Virginia Department of Health’s (VDH) Office of Drinking Water (ODW) strongly encourages all sectors, including municipal, industrial, and agricultural, to use water efficiently and wisely.
VDH recognizes that state, regional, and local differences exist regarding water quality, quantity, and usage. Differences in geography, geology, economic activity, and ordinances favor a prudent approach in which water efficiency programs are tailored for specific locales.
To promote efficient water use, ODW’s primary role is to provide guidelines, technical assistance and information concentrating on:
In August of 1996, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) Amendments of 1996. Among the many provisions in the Act was a requirement for EPA to publish guidelines for water conservation plans by August 1998. Language is the law specified:
SEC. 134. WATER CONSERVATION PLAN
Part E (42 U.S.C. 300j et seq.) is amended by adding at the end the following:
"WATER CONSERVATION PLAN
"SEC. 1455(a) GUIDELINES. -- Not later than 2 years after the date of enactment of the Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments of 1996, the Administrator shall publish in the Federal Register guidelines for water conservation plans for public water systems serving fewer than 3,300 persons, public water systems serving between 3,300 and 10,000 persons, and public water systems serving more than 10,000 persons, taking into consideration such factors as water availability and climate.
(b) LOANS OR GRANTS. -- Within 1 year after publication of the guidelines under subsection (a), a State exercising primary enforcement responsibility for public water systems may require a public water system, as a condition of receiving a loan or grant from a State loan fund under section 1452, to submit with its application for such loan or grant a water conservation plan consistent with such guidelines.".
The above statutory provisions represent was the impetus for the development of federal guidelines in water conservation policy, defining the role States play in implementation, and linking the use of federal conservation guidelines in connection with the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF). The Environmental Protection Agency complied with the law with the publication of Water Conservation Plan Guidelines.
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