The Department of Environmental Protection announced today it plans to adopt new regulations governing the amount of water flowing in the state’s rivers and streams. The goal is to balance the needs of both fish and people.
Margaret Minor of the Rivers Alliance of Connecticut says when too much water is withdrawn from rivers fish and other wildlife can’t survive.
“A number of our rivers, up to perhaps 60, suffer from chronic low-flows each summer. These are man-made artificial droughts that’s the pattern of impairment that we want to see changed.”
Minor says the newly proposed regulations are based on good science, but she says the state may take too long to implement them.
Betsey Wingfield of the DEP says the first step is to classify river basins according to how much human use they currently have. Then water supply companies will be required to withdraw water and release it from dams in a way that mimics a natural flow.
“So what we don’t want is one low-level of flow year round. We want variability similar to what you’d see in a natural system.”
The variability will be based in part on how dry or how wet the stream has been in the past. Wingfield says that will help insure water companies provide enough water for people.
“When its dry we want to be make sure that they are being able to hold back water for human use in case it stays dry.”
But adjusting the flows will cost the water companies and consumers, according to Betsy Gara of the Connecticut Water Works Association.
“It will cost consumers more because the rates are going to go up in areas served by municipal water departments. Some of those areas are going to have to spend millions of dollars on infrastructure upgrades.”
The public will have until February to comment on the proposed regulations. The D.E.P. says once they’re adopted it’ll take about 15 years to implement them.