Letter: Adoption of State Water Plan is in Jeopardy; Water is a Public Trust Resource

View of depleted reservoir from South Stanwich Road, File photo Oct 2016 Credit: Leslie Yager

View of depleted reservoir from South Stanwich Road, File photo Oct 2016 Credit: Leslie Yager

Submitted by Denise Savageau, former director of the Greenwich Conservation Commission

Connecticut is a state rich in water resources. Even with this abundance, the increasing pressures from land use/development and changes in rainfall patterns and distribution are impacting both the quality and quantity of this precious resource.

Recognizing these challenges, the Connecticut General Assembly instructed the Water Planning Council to create a State Water Plan for Connecticut. The Plan is now completed and is before the Connecticut General Assembly. This is good news for Greenwich and everyone interested in protecting drinking water supplies and finding a way to balance the use of our water resources.

Unfortunately, adoption of the State Water Plan is in jeopardy.

The opposition is being led by the water utilities and some legislators are listening.

The utilities are concerned with language in the plan that refers to water as a public trust resource. This language simply reflects current state statute. In 1971, the General Assembly declared, “there is a public trust in the air, water and other natural resources of the state of Connecticut and that each person is entitled to the protection, preservation and enhancement of the same. It is further found and declared that it is in the public interest to provide all persons with an adequate remedy to protect the air, water and other natural resources from unreasonable pollution, impairment or destruction.” (CGS Section 22a-15).

Water as a public trust resource has been our state policy for over 40 years. It only makes sense that this important policy, as codified in state statute, is stated up front in any document about water resources, including the State Water Plan. Taking the reference to water as public trust resource out of the Plan will not change state statute. What it will do is begin the erosion of this public trust doctrine that protects one of our most important natural resources.

We must not let this happen. Greenwich is no stranger to water supply issues. As a community we understand that all water is connected and the need to actively manage and protect both surface and ground water supplies.

The State Water Plan recognizes this. It also recognizes that this protection will only happen as a result of coordination between state and local government and our water utilities.

It is important for Greenwich and all of Connecticut to have a State Water Plan now. The Plan should be adopted by the CT General Assembly, as presented by the Water Planning Council, with over whelming, bi-partisan support that includes water as a public trust resource. Access to clean and abundant water is something all of Connecticut’s residents deserve. Protecting water as a public trust resource is critical to our future.

Denise Savageau