Administrative Code

Virginia Administrative Code

Chapter 390. Water Resources Policy

9VAC25-390-10. Precepts.

The State Water Control Board finds that the Virginia water resource policy must be based upon the following broad precepts of natural and man-made law and must recognize natural conditions and the distribution and growth of Virginia's population and industry:

1. Virginia's hydrographic conditions are diverse, ranging from "mountain streams" to open ocean;

2. Natural salinity varies from near zero to that of the open ocean;

3. Natural rainfall in Virginia is such that total fresh water production far exceeds any foreseeable needs; however, accidents of times and geography may produce short-term or geographic surpluses (flood) or deficits (drought);

4. Flood plains are the natural relief mechanism for surface streams;

5. Virginia has extensive groundwater resources but these resources are not uniformly distributed, and are subject to depletion and pollution through use and to saline intrusion in coastal areas;

6. Quality of surface flows is, to a degree, dependent upon quantities of flow, natural pollution sources and, in part, activities of man;

7. Water is a reusable multi-purpose resource;

8. Development and use of water resources should be based on sound planning;

9. Water resources use is affected by and affects land resource management and population and economic growth;

10. Use of groundwater and use of surface waters are interdependent functions;

11. Wastewater, in many cases, can be safely and economically reclaimed for a variety of beneficial uses, including agricultural and industrial uses;

12. Municipal and industrial demands for water are relatively "constant" whereas the quantities of unmanaged supplies, particularly surface waters, are variable;

13. For the maximum social and economic benefits to all the citizens of the Commonwealth, Virginia must act to protect its water resources and the ecosystems dependent upon them from unnecessary pollution, degradation or destruction. The needs of Virginia's citizens for water resources should be met in such a manner as to preserve these water related environments to the greatest possible degree;

14. State constitutional provisions, statutes and common law constrain water resources use;

15. Federal constitutional provisions and federal statutes constrain and influence water resources use at state level; and

16. Potential sites for reservoirs for flood control and water supply are limited and the need for their preservation must be recognized by the Commonwealth so that their use for these purposes, if it is consistent with ecological and scenic considerations, will not be precluded by uncontrolled development on these sites causing them to become too expensive for use as reservoirs.

Statutory Authority

§§ 62.1-44.15(10) and 62.1-44.38 of the Code of Virginia.

Historical Notes

Derived from VR680-11-03 § 1, eff. June 10, 1987.

9VAC25-390-20. Responsibilities.

The board has established its Water Resources Policy in order to fulfill its statutory responsibilities under § 62.1-44.36 of the Code of Virginia, as follows:

1. Assure, insofar as possible, that domestic, municipal, industrial, agricultural, and other water quality and quantity needs are met at all times consistent with the responsibility of the Commonwealth to protect the natural values of Virginia's water resources, and to assure equitable allocation in times of shortage consistent with the requirements of Virginia law;

2. Protect wetlands in recognition of the dependence of these natural systems upon suitable water quality and in recognition of the contribution of these natural systems to natural values;

3. Recognize the importance of water transportation to the economy and recreation, and to assure the optimum use of the waterways of Virginia;

4. Recognize and foster the unique and diverse role of water in recreation;

5. To the maximum extent practicable, minimize hazards from floods to human life and to economic and natural values;

6. Assure that groundwater withdrawals do not, on the average, exceed recharge, and protect any existing common law or statutory rights to use of groundwaters;

7. Provide policy guidance on the allocation of groundwater in considering the issuance of groundwater permits within groundwater management areas under § 62.1-254 of the Code of Virginia (Ground Water Management Act of 1992);

8. Exercise the responsibility of the Commonwealth within the framework of the existing common law riparian rights of land owners;

9. Evaluate the effect of projects and structures on:

a. Flexibility in future water resource use and project operation;

b. Cost effectiveness within the realistic alternatives available and within the constraints of public health and public safety;

c. Man-made historic and the natural environments;

d. The recommendations of other agencies with an interest in the projects and structures; and

e. Local, regional, and statewide land use plans and growth policies;

10. Minimize the bureaucratic process in order to facilitate cost effective implementation of water resources policy;

11. Assure that the management demands of a water resource project do not exceed the capability of that unit of government responsible for its operation and maintenance;

12. Take advantage of all federal water resource programs to the extent that these programs can provide timely assistance;

13. Promote technological innovations and be responsive to the institution of such advancements;

14. Encourage maximum public participation in the formulation and implementation of specific plans and projects; and

15. Recognize the importance of the preservation of critical reservoir sites for future water needs.

Statutory Authority

§§ 62.1-44.15 and 62.1-44.36 of the Code of Virginia.

Historical Notes

Derived from VR680-11-03 § 2, eff. June 10, 1987; amended, Virginia Register Volume 36, Issue 12, eff. March 4, 2020.

9VAC25-390-30. Policies.

Governed by these precepts and in order to fulfill its statutory responsibilities in the development of the Water Resources Policy, the Department of Environmental Quality (department) will observe the following specific policies in preparing Water Resource Management Plans, advising on the adequacy and desirability of water resource projects, and authorizing specific water resource projects or in commenting on projects which affect water resources.

1. Natural water sources (groundwater and surface water).

a. Community, natural resource and transportation development should proceed in such a way that the adverse effect on run-off (rates, quality and quantity) and ground water recharge are minimized, that remedial structures (such as spreading basins and flow retarding structures) are incorporated as permanent features of developments and that adequate financial and legal provisions are made for the maintenance of such structures.

b. Total withdrawals from coastal zone aquifers should be limited to such a quantity as to prevent the intrusion of salinity beyond the limit determined acceptable for the beneficial uses of the aquifer.

c. Total withdrawals from a specific aquifer shall not exceed estimated recharge except for short (one or two year) periods of time: the divergence should not be so great as to affect unreasonably legal rights to withdrawal or to affect the capability of the aquifer to be recharged fully in the future.

d. Conjunctive use of groundwater and surface water is encouraged.

2. Beneficial use and public benefit.

a. The natural values and natural processes occurring in water resources in an undisturbed state constitute a substantial social and economic benefit to the citizens of the Commonwealth, and protection of these processes should be considered in any resource management plan.

b. The public shall have full access to future facilities paid for by general public funds to the extent that such access is compatible with project purposes and to the extent that the primary purpose of the facility is not defeated.

c. Once a project site has been approved by the department it will be a policy of the department to encourage preservation of the site by other state agencies.

d. Flow releases from reservoirs for the purpose of maintaining minimum flows necessary for prevention of eutrophic conditions and for protection of fish, wildlife and aesthetic values will be considered as beneficial uses.

e. Generation of electricity by hydropower, both in conventional and pumped storage developments, is considered a beneficial use of water resources provided that the system is so operated that neither maximum nor minimum flow releases are unreasonable and so that the rate of flow does not change so rapidly as to be hazardous.

f. Water resource projects and sewerage systems shall be so designed, operated and maintained that hazards to health, public safety and environmental values are minimized.

g. The consideration of water resources projects by the department shall include coordination with other public agencies in order to ensure that all relevant public policy and formal standards will have an appropriate bearing on the final decision.

3. Environmental protection.

a. The long-term protection of the environment shall be the guiding criterion in decisions relating to water and related land resources.

b. Channel management projects should be designed, constructed and operated in such a way as to minimize, and preferable to avoid, both short term and long term adverse environmental effects; the capability of water resources to absorb change shall be a designed constraint for such projects (e.g. erosion during construction).

c. Agricultural and urban channelization projects in natural water courses should be limited in size to that essential for the protection of property and should be developed and constructed in such a way that fish and wildlife and aesthetic values are protected, that erosion and flood hazards are not increased, and that groundwater is not adversely affected.

d. Water resource projects and sewerage system plans shall be accompanied by an adequate environmental evaluation.

4. Pollution and wasteful use.

a. Industrial processes should be designed to minimize system demand through reuse and process change and to minimize discharge of wastes. As a goal the department favors the design of industrial processes with minimum withdrawal.

b. Flow releases from reservoir systems to dilute wastes are not to be considered as a substitute for adequate treatment of waste from industry, agriculture or municipalities.

c. No water storage reservoir project will be endorsed or approved unless accompanied by adequate plans and programs for safeguarding reservoir storage from loss through sedimentation from upstream erosion and shoreline erosion which may include the use of upstream sedimentation basins and the control of pollutants from all sources. Any such plan and project shall have adequate legal and financial support.

d. Plumbing and building codes should prevent needless waste of water, without interfering with maintenance of health values. Metering of municipal water deliveries to users is encouraged.

e. The discharge of pollutants into ground water aquifers shall be contrary to department policy except that brine derived from naturally saline aquifers may be returned to these aquifers and chemicals and water may be used in connection with the exploration for and development of water, brines, oil and natural gas to the extent that such uses do not result in pollution of groundwater.

f. Spoils produced from original dredging and channel maintenance projects should not be disposed of in any manner that would in itself adversely modify circulation in estuaries or wetlands. Installation and maintenance of drainage ditches, including disposition of any spoils produced by them, or use of drain tile is permissible in managing wet or soggy agricultural lands.

g. Fail-safe type mechanisms should be provided for all facilities designed to store substances which might be hazardous to stream environment or to ground water.

h. Fail-safe devices shall be incorporated in the construction of wastewater treatment facilities to prevent discharges which would create a potential hazard to downstream uses.

All sewer systems shall be so designed and operated that bypassing occurs only under emergency conditions and that nearby residents and official agencies are informed and alerted whenever such bypassing of raw sewage occurs.

5. Water supply and storage.

a. Municipal areas should have adequate off-stream raw water storage. The amount of storage should be governed by such factors as community size and demand, hydrographic characteristics of the supply areas (including well fields) and susceptibility to accidental contamination.

b. Water systems should be interconnected whenever practicable in order that they may mutually support or aid each other in emergency situations, and assure the best possible uses of available surface and ground water resources. In order to ensure reliability and safety the use or development of multiple or alternate sources should be considered.

c. The use of reclaimed water should be considered in water resources planning for urban areas provided such uses are compatible with the public's health and safety. Acceptable uses which should be considered are:

(1) Cooling waters;

(2) Agricultural;

(3) Irrigation;

(4) Industrial; and

(5) Recreational

The direct reuse of sewage effluents as a raw domestic water source is not recommended.

d. The use of reservoirs for all compatible uses including recreation, municipal and industrial water supply and fish/wildlife management, and the use of reservoir shoreline for all purposes shall be subject to community/project controls which will protect the reservoir against pollution from runoff or discharges from point sources, and to zoning controls which will preserve agreed-upon aesthetic values.

e. Subsurface storage and groundwater recharge should be encouraged subject to the provisions that such practices do not cause pollution of underground water resources.

f. Municipal sewage treatment plants shall, whenever possible, be located to permit the beneficial reuse of effluents for the purposes set forth in subparagraph c above.

g. Criteria for guidance in the withdrawal and use of groundwater should be considered as follows:

(1) The relationships between groundwater and surface water in the area.

(2) Information relating to the planned use of the groundwater, considering use for domestic drinking water as of greatest importance.

(3) The economic effects involved in both the withdrawal and nonwithdrawal of groundwater on the area and the Commonwealth.

(4) The urgency of the need for ground water in a given area.

h. The department encourages provision of the highest degree of protection for the capacity and quality of reservoirs and storage through programs designed to assure reliable waste treatment systems, effective erosion and run-off controls, and effective control of quality of run-off in newly developed areas.

6. Flood plains and flood control.

a. Development of permanent, private or public structures should be discouraged on the flood plains unless there are overriding economic or social justifications for such development and compatible facilities are designed to withstand inundation and provide for safety of people and property.

b. Communities and individuals should make optimum use of flood plain insurance and the levels of participation will be considered by the department in recommending protection measures.

Existing or authorized development of the flood plain should be protected at a minimum from a flood with a recurrence interval of 100 years.

c. Flood control measures approved or recommended for any community shall incorporate a cost-effective mix of reservoirs, dry dams, protective levees, structure flood proofing, flood plain zoning and other measures necessary for preservation of environmental values including historic sites.

d. Any proposals for new construction of water or sewerage systems in defined flood plains, with the exception of limited park and recreational facilities or agricultural uses, should be discouraged.

e. In the flood plain, construction of facilities designed to store substances which might be hazardous to the stream environment is discouraged.

f. In approving sewerage projects, the department will consider the extent to which the proposed project will result in increased erosion, changes in the rate and amount of surface run-off, changes in the development-induced quality of run-off, and increased exposure to flood damage.

7. Financial consideration.

a. Project costs (both nonrecurring and recurring), should be apportioned equitably among the identifiable project beneficiaries.

b. No community or area of Virginia, in the development or management of a water resource project, shall unduly place any hardship on another community or area without just compensation. The department in acting on a water resource project will consider the extent to which such inequities may be present and the steps, financial and otherwise, necessary to alleviate both short and long range consequences of such inequities. Compensation of individuals disrupted by water resource projects necessarily includes, to the extent reasonably possible, subjective as well as objective valuation factors.

c. Beneficiaries of water resource structures and projects shall be encouraged to adopt user charges based upon the total recurring and nonrecurring costs of the structures or projects.

8. Wetlands. It is the policy of the department to preserve the wetland ecosystems, both tidal and nontidal, and to protect them from destruction.

Statutory Authority

§§ 62.1-44.15(10) and 62.1-44.38 of the Code of Virginia.

Historical Notes

Derived from VR680-11-03 § 3, eff. June 10, 1987; amended, Virginia Register Volume 39, Issue 5, eff. November 23, 2022.

9VAC25-390-40. Modification.

The board may, from time to time and after public hearing, adopt, modify, amend or rescind any policy contained herein. Such action may be taken on the board's own motion or by virtue of a citizen action if presented in a manner acceptable to the board. Nothing in this Water Resource Policy statement in any way negates previous specific policy statements of the board.

The Department of Environmental Quality will review this policy triennially.

Statutory Authority

§§ 62.1-44.15(10) and 62.1-44.38 of the Code of Virginia.

Historical Notes

Derived from VR680-11-03 § 4, eff. June 10, 1987; amended, Virginia Register Volume 39, Issue 5, eff. November 23, 2022.

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