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Great Lakes Article:

State to develop water-conservation plan by 2008
Garry Lenton
The Patriot-News

It took 20 years to accomplish, but Pennsylvania now has a law that will require it to develop a statewide strategy to conserve water.

The Water Resources Planning Act, signed by Gov. Mark Schweiker on Monday, will require those who use an average 10,000 gallons of water a day over 30 days to tell the state how much they use and where they draw the water from.

This is a new requirement for water users in the Ohio, Great Lakes and Potomac basins. The law is a first step in determining how much water the state has, who is using it and where it is being taken from.

The data gathered over the next five years will be used to determine where water is in short supply; how land-use regulations should be changed to protect watersheds; and prepare drought emergency plans.

"This legislation puts in place a planning process the public told us was needed," Schweiker said.

The law establishes a 21-member State Water Advisory Board and six 18-member regional advisory boards. Those bodies will be responsible for developing a state conservation plan by 2008.

The measure was derided by nearly all of the major environmental groups in Pennsylvania because it gives the state advisory board veto power over the plan.

Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future, The Sierra Club, Pennsylvania Environmental Council, Clean Water Action and others opposed the bill.

The measure drew tacit approval from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, but only after Executive Director Matthew J. Ehrhart expressed disappointment about its shortcomings in a letter to Department of Environmental Protection Secretary David Hess.

"Although we believe ... [changes] need to be made in order to have a more effective and environmentally protective bill, CBF believes that the need to get started on updating the state water plan is paramount and we do not oppose the current legislative efforts. ...," Ehrhart wrote.

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