WEST VIRGINIA'S WATER - If History Predicts The Future....

(11/29/2007)

In 2003, a Herald story about West Virginia's water, said "Whether we can bring ourselves to view it as a resource for our citizens remains to be seen."

The state has the enormous potential to catch and store water in its thousands of narrow valleys.

Now, efforts to take a look at measuring WV water is at a standstill.

A pilot program has expired, just as historic droughts are forcing other states in the region to fight over water resources and being forced to ration.

State officials say neighboring states are much further along toward protecting their water resources.

If history predicts the future, the state's valuable water resources will be a sell-out to large out-of-state corporations with little to be gained by poor West Virginia to build or sustain its infrastructure.

Pennsylvania, for instance, monitors in every county and 550 stream gages statewide. West Virginia has a fraction of those monitors, and only 97 gages.

Commercial water users and water industry groups are worried that renewing a study on the state's water resources could someday mean more regulations and even taxes on water.

Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, said "We want to try to protect the quantity of water for our stakeholders in the state."

Sen. Unger said Virginia and Maryland have been fighting over the Potomac River. Maryland traces its claim to Colonial times, but Virginia has gone to court as growth pushes its pipelines away from the river.

West Virginia has few laws if any protecting the state's water supply.

Recently, the largest water company in the state was sold to a foreign investment company. The state's water systems were mostly built with taxpayer money, now sold and privatized.

State residents who live on top of some of the nation's greatest energy resources, must buy that energy back from out-of-state holders.

Water may be the states last great natural resource. During the last century coal, timber and other resources were rarely protected to help the citizens of the state.

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that a state canít stop an out-of-state company from diverting its water if that state fails to manage water use among its own residents.

West Virginia hasnít regulated water use because it has a big supply, at least for now.

So long as thereís sufficient water, there arenít any conflicts.

Virginia started a permitting process for major water users in the late 1980s.

Living next to the waterway no longer forms the basis for your water rights.


Hur Herald ģfrom Sunny Cal
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