Legal notices in the December 29 issue of the Eastern Shore Post have sparked apprehension among local residents regarding proposed groundwater withdrawal permits. Two draft permits, advertised in the notices, have drawn attention due to their potential impact on the Upper Yorktown aquifer, a vital water source for agricultural and residential needs in the region.
The notices direct readers interested in understanding the potential drop in the Upper Yorktown aquifer’s level relative to the ground surface to a specific website. However, concerns have been raised regarding the inadequacy of information related to Northampton County on the site.
In an email message, Citizen Ken Dufty, referencing the Jones Farm application in Franktown, expressed worries about the proposed extraction of nearly 12 million gallons annually from the Upper Yorktown aquifer. This water would be used to fill irrigation ponds crucial for crop irrigation, highlighting the strain this withdrawal could place on the finite drinking water reserves.
Similarly, the Shelley Farm in Painter aims to access the Upper Yorktown aquifer for irrigation purposes, seeking an even larger withdrawal of 16.6 million gallons annually. The absence of a requirement to explore alternative water sources like the Columbia Aquifer raises concerns about the sustainability of this significant withdrawal from the Upper Yorktown.
Drawing parallels to historical incidents in other regions, Dufty highlighted the risk of over-extraction, citing the severe depletion experienced in Virginia Beach and the Hampton Roads area in the 1970s with the Potomac Aquifer. The lack of comparable alternative water sources on the Eastern Shore heightens worries about the long-term sustainability of current withdrawal rates, particularly considering the aquifer’s designation as a “sole source” by the federal government since 1997.
The disparity between withdrawal rates, estimated at 15 million gallons per day, and rainwater recharge at 9 million gallons per day, raises alarms about the unsustainable trajectory of water usage. The resident called for stringent regulations similar to those applied to the poultry industry in Accomack County, advocating for a requirement to prove the unviability of alternative aquifers for non-potable water use.
Expressing intentions to submit comments on the Jones Farm application once deficiencies in public notice information are addressed, Ken emphasized the need for collaboration between the community and regulatory bodies to ensure sustainable groundwater reserves for current and future needs.
These concerns highlight the critical importance of balancing water usage for commercial, residential, industrial, and agricultural purposes while safeguarding the finite and essential groundwater reserves vital to the Eastern Shore’s sustainability and prosperity.