Marsh/Rock creeks- a Critical Water Resource Area
Posted: May 15, 2012
Adams County water goes clear down to the Chesapeake Bay by way of the Susquehanna River Watershed and the Potomac River Watershed. The Conewago Creek is the largest creek from Adams County that feeds into the Susquehanna. Western Adams County feeds mainly into the Monocacy River and from Marsh Creek and Rock Creek, these eventually drain into the Potomac River. With over 1000 miles in streams, almost every stream in Adams County begins here and flows out to the Chesapeake Bay.
Adams County has a poor retention rate of water due to the well-drained soils, which when paired with the outflow of all streams doesn’t leave much behind. The majority of water use comes from the domestic/public water supply, followed by agriculture, industry, mining, commercial use, golf courses and other according to the Interstate Commission of the Potomac River Basin (ICPRB) report conducted on Marsh and Rock creeks.
In January the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) designated three critical water-planning areas in the state, citing Marsh and Rock creeks watersheds here in Adams County as one. This designation means that “current or future demand on the watershed exceeds or is threatening to exceed the supply available.” Currently ICPRB is working with the Watershed Alliance of Adams County (WAAC) in collecting data for a Critical Area Resource Plan (CARP) which will analyze the uses of water in the county as well as suggest management options.
Water data within the county is limited due to the fact that only large users are required to report water practices and only so much information is available on streams, groundwater and storm water. Dr. Heidi Moltz is a Senior Water Resource Scientist at the ICPRB and informed local residents and WAAC members that the “key is water management.”
As water resources fluctuate with seasonal availability the CARP plan will analyze availability of water, storage capabilities, water quality, storm water quality effects and potential resources, policy and water management by municipalities, data availability and communication between the public and stakeholders. This report should be finished by the end of May with a public hearing to be held July 11th from 1-3pm at the Adams CountyAgricultural and Natural Resource Center in Gettysburg.
Reports such as this are vital to efforts to protect our water quality and resources. Biglerville Borough Council recently approved their Source Water Protection Plan creating protective zones and identifying potential sources of contamination to borough water. Dick Mountfort, Chairman of the Municipal Authority, stated that they were inspired to create a protection plan after seeing the possibility of contamination from a tire pile as well as a proposal for a 400 home development.
The Borough Council got involved with the DEP and set up a steering committee inviting all stakeholders from the community to oversee the development of the plan. This plan will now raise public awareness of the zones surrounding borough water wells, initiate an emergency response plan and will require anyone applying for development to come up with an assessment of water, proving that there is adequate water for the proposal. Gettysburg Municipal Authority has signed up for assistance with the DEP and will be working on a plan in the near future.
While the majority of water use comes from domestic/public use, the majority of lands in the Marsh and Rock creeks watersheds are agricultural lands. Most agricultural operations use source water from nearby streams or ponds which have been built for irrigation purposes. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) of the USDA provides financial assistance to land owners, mainly farmers, for erosion control and water quality projects, such as ponds. They help evaluate the best practices possible for a given tract of land to upkeep water quality, install the most efficient irrigation possible, control erosion and keep nearby water sources clean.
Programs such as the NRCS are vital to educate and assist agricultural land owners with water issues and best management practices such as fencing for livestock, planting trees along waterways to filter runoff and barnyard curbing. Using drip irrigation, as most Adams County producers do, instead of overhead spraying reduces evaporation and volume of water usage. The USDA is also working on a system to map water use, which will be able to detect water stress areas. All these programs are driven by farmer need and public interest as the NRCS has no regulatory authority, but simply aids in the conservation effort.
Plans such as the CARP are evaluating capture options to increase the water supply. Depending on the operation options include building of a reservoir, waste reuse and storm or rain water retention. When it comes to the public there are many options to help conserve Adams County water.
The Adams County Agricultural and Natural Resource Center is a model for various homes or businesses with a storm water retention basin, grass water ways leading to a pond, a cattle stream crossing behind the building, native meadow plantings and a rain garden in the parking lot to offset heavy rains.
Residents are encouraged to compost yard waste, use natural fertilizers, recycle motor oil and antifreeze, plan trees along creeks, direct downspouts away from paved surfaces, wash cars at car washes instead of in driveways and properly dispose of house-hold cleaning products and medicines.
The Watershed Alliance of Adams County is looking for volunteers to help measure surface water and check rain gauges. The DEP is also starting a summer program to test water quality in recreational waters. To get involved in either of these contact Adam McClain at the WAAC by email or by phone (334-0636). The WAAC also recently held a stream clean up event at Conewago Creek where volunteers canoed down the stream and picked up trash. Last year’s event retrieved over 5 truckloads of trash out of the creek.
Learn more and keep updated with the Critical Area Resources Plan (CARP)!