DEQ proposes reducing Windsor’s groundwater permit

Published 2:23 pm Monday, September 16, 2019

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The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality plans to reduce the amount of groundwater the town of Windsor is permitted to withdraw by roughly 13 percent.

The town is allowed to withdraw 539,726 gallons per day, according to Town Manager Michael Stallings. The draft of the town’s new DEQ permit, he said, which will likely be issued sometime after the DEQ’s Oct. 11 deadline for public comments on the matter, would reduce this to 466,200 gallons per day.

According to information published on the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission website, DEQ decisions on groundwater permits rely heavily on using a model to simulate the impacts of water withdrawals. Prior to 2014, the DEQ used a model created in the 1990s, which reportedly wasn’t accurate enough to simulate long-term groundwater level declines, and led to concerns that Virginia’s groundwater system had been over-allocated.

Windsor, however, wasn’t one of the 14 municipal and corporate water systems in Hampton Roads that the DEQ actively worked with in 2014 and 2015 to reduce their dependence on groundwater, according to Ann Regn, a DEQ spokeswoman. She explained that the reason Windsor was cut was because the town’s re-issuance application indicated the town’s actual water demand was lower than the originally permitted amounts.

“Over time, withdrawal permits get ‘right-sized’ based on [localities’] monitoring and reporting, and their ability to justify that the requested amount will be used during the permit term,” Regn said. “By the time re-issuance rolls around, the system has honed in on their actual demand and we can provide more precise limits.”

She added that the 13-percent reduction was agreed upon by both the DEQ and Windsor.

Stallings confirmed that the agreed-upon groundwater limit would be sufficient to supply all of the town’s current water users, plus all currently-approved developments planned for the town. Windsor, he said, uses an average of roughly 230,000 gallons per day.

Windsor had applied for the renewal of its groundwater permit in 2015, but only received a draft of the new permit from the DEQ in July of this year. The new permit, he said, would be for a term of 15 years rather than 10, meaning — assuming it is issued before the end of 2019 — that the town will be covered through 2034. The town’s current permit, he said, will remain in effect through the date the new one is issued.

The public may comment on the proposed new groundwater withdrawal permit by writing to Erinn Tisdale via mail addressed to DEQ Central Office, 111 E. Main St., Richmond, VA 23218, faxing comments to 804-698-4032 or emailing, or by calling her at 804-698-4066.