The New Castle County Resource Protection Area Technical Advisory Committee (RPATAC) requested that the University of Delaware utilize impervious cover estimates to evaluate the performance of the Water Resource Protection Area (WRPA) ordinance.  This 1991 ordinance was the first in Delaware to protect the quantity and quality of drinking water supplies by limiting new development in WRPAs – such as areas of ground water recharge, wellhead protection, drainage above reservoirs (reservoir watersheds), and limestone aquifers – to a maximum 20 percent impervious cover.  The research used geographic information system (GIS) techniques to evaluate the effectiveness of the ordinance in attaining its objective. The analysis indicated that 138 new developments were proposed in WRPAs since the ordinance was approved in 1991.  The composite impervious cover of the 231 square kilometers of WRPAs in New Castle County is 15 percent, less than the 20 percent code requirement, ranging from 7 percent in recharge areas to 41 percent in several wellhead protection areas.  To further protect drinking water supplies, the study results indicate, New Castle County should discourage code variances for applications in the more developed WRPAs, those where impervious cover already exceeds 20 percent, and should acquire parks and open space to protect the healthier WRPAs where impervious cover is currently less than 20 percent.

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