Following the blueprint set forth in Governor Minner’s 2020 On Tap: Ensuring Delaware’s Fresh Water Supply initiative announced in April 2003, water purveyors in northern New Castle County have developed over 1.8 billion gallons in new reserve water supplies since the drought of 1999 and reduced water demands by 10 to 15 percent as a cushion to meet future dry conditions. When the City of Wilmington completes the renovation of the Hoopes Reservoir spillway, which will facilitate the raising of the reservoir pool by two feet and add 150 million gallons of new storage, and United Water Delaware completes an Aquifer Storage and Recovery project that will provide 75 million gallons, water purveyors will have developed over two billion gallons of additional water supply storage in northern New Castle County. These reserve water supplies are designed to meet conditions experienced during the 2002 drought of record, based on peak water demands forecast for the population in 2020.
On the demand side, the water purveyors have waged a campaign to conserve water. Since the 2002 drought, water demands in northern Delaware are down ten percent and rarely peak above 80 million gallons per day (mgd). Recent peak demands contrast with the historic peak demand of 93 mgd recorded in 1997. Leak detection, water pipe–replacement projects, and implementation of efficient-water-use plumbing fixtures have cut water usage back substantially. A ten percent water-demand savings in northern Delaware amounts to 7 mgd, which accrued over a 75-day drought period, adds up to 500 million gallons or about 1½ times the capacity of Newark Reservoir.
Conservation-oriented water rates (such as the inclining block rates employed by Artesian Water Company, City of New Castle, City of Newark, and United Water Delaware) have resulted in water-demand reduction in their respective service areas. Many industries have installed recycling equipment, and Delawareans have adopted a strong conservation ethic following the droughts of 1999 and 2002.
Delaware Water Supply Self Sufficiency Act
The water purveyors are complying with House Bill 118, the Delaware Water Supply Self Sufficiency Act, signed by Governor Minner in July 2003. HB 118 requires the WSCC to determine projected water demand for each water utility in northern New Castle County for 2009 and certify that the non-jurisdictional (municipal) water utilities are self-sufficient. The WSCC chair has accepted the certification of the City of Newark, and received a resubmission from the City of Wilmington.
The jurisdictional water utilities (investor-owned purveyors), which are subject to regulation by the Public Service Commission (PSC), submitted applications certifying their self-sufficiency to the PSC by July 1, 2006. The PSC has since accepted the certifications of the jurisdictional water utilities. The updated supply and demand estimates indicate that the water purveyors have implemented enough water supply storage since 1999 (over 1.8 billion gallons) that they have achieved water-supply self-sufficiency in accordance with the 2003 law.
Drought Operating Plan and Guidelines
On June 26, 2005, the Seventh Report to the Governor and General Assembly recommended a new Drought Operating Plan (DOP) for water purveyors in northern Delaware. This DOP includes Drought Operating Guidelines that incorporate a three-phase drought-advisory system. The DOP provides purveyor-submitted plans to utilize surface and groundwater supplies and interconnections during drought.
Southern New Castle County Water Supply Plan
The population of southern New Castle County is expected to double to nearly 96,000 by 2030, thus the demand for public water supply is expected to increase at a similar rate. In 2005 there was sufficient groundwater availability to meet peak demands from public water supply and agriculture/golf course–irrigation uses. By 2030, the projections indicate there will be sufficient groundwater availability (20 to 30 million gallons per day) to meet peak demands from public water supply and irrigation uses, even if these peak demands occur simultaneously provided that:
Public water supply and irrigation wells are pumped in accordance with Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) water-allocation limits. DNREC will continue to monitor demands and water levels from allocated public water supply wells and irrigation wells so as not to diminish the capacity of irrigation wells for producers who wish to sustain farming in southern New Castle County.
Water purveyors interconnect between and within systems, add new finished-water storage and aquifer storage and recovery, and transport water from aquifers with excess availability south of Townsend to growth areas between Middletown/Odessa and the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal.