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Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary David E. Hess today stressed the need for new legislation to protect water resources at a meeting of the State Grange.
"We cannot stress enough the importance of water and the serious issues farmers in Pennsylvania are facing due to the drought emergency," Secretary Hess said. "We need to develop long term water-use strategies as part of a comprehensive approach to better manage our water resources."
Gov. Mark Schweiker's proposed water resources legislation will provide a historic opportunity to update the state water plan, identify critical water planning areas, promote voluntary water conservation, improve stormwater management and establish private water-well standards.
"What we will be able to do is look at water holistically and integrate water quantity and water quality considerations into our programs and activities. We cannot separate water quality and water quantity concerns or concerns for surface and groundwater, because they are all bound together in one watershed system."
Secretary Hess also emphasized the need to develop a water-conservation "ethic" across Pennsylvania in response to on-going drought conditions. Currently, 19 counties are in drought-emergency, 31 are in drought-watch and five are in drought-warning status. Only 12 counties report normal water conditions.
"Water is one of Pennsylvania's most precious resources," Secretary Hess said. "We have more than 83,000 miles of streams, nearly 4,000 lakes, 120 miles of coastal waters and over 80 trillion gallons of groundwater. Our water resources are critical to our economy and the survival of natural systems and habitats."
Throughout April and May 2001, DEP held 15 water forums around the state to get input from citizens about their water resource needs. DEP is using the input provided by the more than 1,700 residents who attended the forums to find better ways to address their needs through meaningful water resources legislation and administrative changes.