All of us need fresh water every day. We drink it, bathe in it, cook and clean with it, and play in it. We use it to put out fires, build, landscape, cultivate, experiment, and manufacture. Then, once we've used water, we need safe, effective ways to dispose of, recycle, and reuse it that protect human health and the environment.
The density of properties where most Montgomery County citizens live and work makes it impractical for each property to have its own water supply and wastewater disposal systems. Instead, common, centralized water and sewerage systems, owned and operated by public sanitary utilities, provide these services throughout much of the County.
A plan to coordinate and maintain these sanitary services is an essential part of the County's responsibilities to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of its citizens.
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Water and Sewer Plan: Background and Process
In Maryland the planning and coordination for sanitary services are delegated from the state to each county government. The Montgomery County government addresses this responsibility through the Ten-Year Comprehensive Water Supply and Sewerage Systems Plan (Water and Sewer Plan), which ensures that existing and future water supply and wastewater disposal needs are coordinated in a manner that:
- Is timely and cost-effective
- Is well integrated with land use planning efforts
- Protects the health, safety, and welfare of residents, businesses, and institutions
- Protects the quality of the environmental resources of the county, the state, and the Chesapeake Bay region
- Helps to improve the quality of the environmental resources of the county, state, and region
View and download sections of the Ten-Year Comprehensive Water Supply and Sewerage Systems Plan.
The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) requires the County to prepare a comprehensive update of the Water and Sewer Plan every three years. Between comprehensive updates, the County approves amendments to the plan (such as service area categories, new or revised policies, and technical information) through procedures described in Chapter 1 of the plan. Under state law, the County Council is responsible for approving the plan and its amendments.
The County Executive, acting through the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), prepares the plan's comprehensive updates and also provides recommendations to the Council for action on proposed amendments.
DEP, with the assistance of other agencies, develops some amendments, typically those that involve policy issues or affect groups of properties. Property owners also propose amendments, usually those involving single properties or no more than a few properties together.
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What Does the Water and Sewer Plan Cover?
The Water and Sewer Plan is a functional master plan for providing water and sewer services throughout Montgomery County. As such, it provides an important link between the County's land use and development planning and the actual construction of the water supply and sewerage systems needed to implement that planning effort.
The Water and Sewer Plan establishes policies that support the goals and objectives of the County's General Plan, On Wedges and Corridors, and its related local area sector and master plans. These policies emphasize:
- The use of public water and sewerage systems along higher-density urban and suburban development areas
- The use of individual, on-site wells, and septic systems throughout lower-density suburban, rural, and agricultural areas
The plan's policies are implemented in part by assigning water and sewer service area categories for all properties within the County. The service area categories:
- Designate whether properties are intended to be developed using (and are eligible for) public or private service
- Provide staging elements or a sequence for planning and providing public service
The land use planning process depends in part on the service policies in the Water and Sewer Plan. These policies provide guidance that helps in establishing a master plan's recommendations for the type and density of development proposed in each community.
The plan provides information on the County's existing water supply and sewerage systems from beginning to end. It includes everything from the point where raw water is drawn from a surface water body or groundwater supply, through delivery and use by the consumer, to the final treatment and disposal or reuse of wastewater effluent.
The plan provides projections for the future needs of water and sewerage systems, which result from land use planning studies, demographic projections, legal mandates, and policy requirements. It addresses these needs using a variety of approaches, such as:
- New, expanded, or replacement water and sewer facilities, such as transmission mains, pumping stations, storage tanks, or treatment plants
- Expansion of existing water or sewerage systems, or the use of alternative systems, to address communities experiencing public health problems from failing wells or septic systems
- New or updated programs and service policies that address issues like changes in sanitary service technology, support for new development concepts and protection from undesired sanitary system expansion or on-site system use.
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How Is the Water and Sewer Plan Organized?
The content of the Ten-Year Comprehensive Water Supply and Sewerage Systems Plan, which is specified by state laws and regulations, is as follows:
- Introduction (PDF, 12 pg, 4.1Mb)
- Chapter 1: Objectives and Policies (PDF, 55 pg, 15.4Mb) provides the legal requirements for the plan; the County's overall objectives for water and sewer service; the policies addressing the provision of water and sewer service by both public systems and private on-site systems; and the procedures and organizational roles through which the County and state adopt, amend, and administer the plan.
- Chapter 2: General Background (PDF, 24 pg, 29Mb) provides background information on Montgomery County's natural and man-made environment relevant to the provision of water and sewer service by both public and individual systems.
- Chapter 3: Water Supply Systems (PDF, 44 pg, 34.1Mb) provides information on the County's existing water supply systems and on planning efforts to ensure that the County's mid- and long-term water supply needs will be satisfied in a manner consistent with public policy and the plan's objectives. Regional planning issues, as they relate to the County, are also addressed.
- Chapter 4: Sewerage Systems provides information on the County's existing sewerage systems and on planning efforts to ensure that the County's mid- and long-term sewerage needs are and will be satisfied in a manner consistent with public policy and the plan's objectives. Regional planning issues, as they relate to the County, are also addressed. Chapter 4 is provided in three separate download documents:
- Glossary (PDF, 2 pg, 292K)
- Appendix A (PDF, 22 pg, 6.7Mb)
- Appendices B-D (PDF, 12 pg, 3.6Mb)
- Council Resolution (PDF, 4 pg, 1.1Mb)
- Water Categories Map (PDF, 1 pp, 2.3Mb)
- Sewer Categories Map (PDF, 1 pp, 2.2Mb)
Water and Sewer Service Area Category Maps provide the service area category designations established in the plan for each property in the County.
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