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On behalf of Pennsylvania Gov. Mark Schweiker, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary David E. Hess has outlined the Schweiker Administration's new water resources initiative to inventory and protect Pennsylvania's water resources from overuse for members of the Northwest Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission.
"This legislation is needed to protect our natural systems and habitats, our drinking water and our economy," Hess said. "Water is vital to our existence, yet we know little about how much water we have and how it's used.
"Proposed legislation will allow us to better manage our water resources by laying a foundation of solid information on which communities trying to plan for the future can rely to make wise decisions," he continued.
The major features of the proposed legislation, Senate Bill 1230 and House Bill 2230, were proposed by citizens from across Pennsylvania last spring during a series of 15 water forums. Provisions included in the Water Resources Conservation and Protection Act would
-- Require the State Water Plan to be updated;
-- Identify Critical Water Planning Areas;
-- Create a Water Conservation Program; and
-- Set Water Well Construction Standards.
"Those of us in northwestern Pennsylvania have always regarded our abundant water as a key business attraction," Northwest Regional Planning and Development Commission Executive Director William R. Steiner said. "Despite that wealth, we also are aware that natural resources can't be taken for granted. We need to protect our water resources to ensure that our region will prosper in the future."
Hess told commission members that drought conditions over the last several years have sharpened public attention regarding water issues.
"The time to act on this issue is long overdue," Hess said. "As we gather here in Franklin today, 62 of the state's 67 counties, including most of northwestern Pennsylvania, are either under a drought watch or a drought warning. And in four of the last six years, drought conditions have reached emergency levels. Like a good financial planner, Pennsylvania needs to take stock of its water resources, develop a water budget and plan for the future."
Addressing water resources is the last of the three major recommendations made by the Governor's 21st Century Environment Commission. The commission also recommended adopting a watershed approach to the environment, which resulted in the Growing Greener Watershed Protection Program, and improving land use policies, which produced the Growing Smarter initiative that gives communities the tools to control sprawl while respecting private property rights.
The Northwest Regional Planning and Development Commission, a non-profit corporation, was founded in 1967 to provide for the improvement of the quality of life through the orderly growth and development in its eight member counties: Clarion, Crawford, Erie, Forest, Lawrence, Mercer, Venango and Warren.