Virginia Family Farm Law Raises Controversy in Water Supply Transfer

June 23, 2000

City officials of West Richland, Va., claim that a 1977 law intended to protect small farms from corporate encroachment in Virginia is preventing them from tapping water supplies that could be used for the city's growth.

The Family Farm Act opposes farm water to be used for anything other than a family farm, but doesn't specifically mention transfer of water to municipal water systems.

The controversy was highlighted when Kennewick farm owner John B. Michel tried to sell his untapped groundwater rights to West Richland.

To make the transfer-about 3,100 gallons of water per minute for $750,000-the parties need to get Michel's water rights changed from "agricultural irrigation" to "municipal" use. Michel's request for a water transfer is before the Benton County water conservancy board, which was expected to make a decision by the end of the month.

Dennis Wright, West Richland's public works director, said the city expects the Ecology Department to oppose the transfer, which could serve about 2,400 homes.

West Richland drilled a well last year but it didn't deliver as much water as officials hoped. The city is prepared to appeal the Ecology Department's expected denial to a state hearing board, Wright said.

(Source: U.S. Water Online)

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