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Indeed, the Town has recently updated our groundwater protection ordinances which were more than two decades old and outdated. Some of the most critical factors that drove this update were as follows.
Water Overlay Zones
North Kingstown’s Groundwater Overlay Zoning establishes two overlay zones. The Wellhead Protection Areas, which are the land areas that are within the zones of contribution or the areas where the groundwater is being pulled toward the pumping wells. In essence, this is the water that we may drink at some point in time in the future. These are the most critical areas for protecting our drinking water and communities and water suppliers are required to develop programs for source water and wellhead protection.
The Recharge Area designation includes the Groundwater Recharge Areas as mapped by the US Geological Survey (with slight modifications to be as protective as possible). These are the watershed boundaries of the Hunt, Annaquatucket and Pettaquamscutt (HAP) River basins.
In order to be able to take advantage of the best data possible, our groundwater mapping is now tied directly to the mapping done by the RI Dept. of Environmental Management based on it’s most up to date data. Here is a link to the regulations. Pages 42-43 show static maps.
here is a link to the mapping page of RIDEM. Once on the page, you have to turn on the groundwater layers you want and turn off the ones you don’t to get the image below. I clicked on the generic “groundwater” layer and if you expand that layer by clicking the arrow next to it you can click on wellhead and recharge.
This answer is easy; we do not wish to put any areas involved in our drinking water at risk. The Water Department’s job is to provide safe drinking water. State and federal laws require communities and water suppliers to protect their source water, which for North Kingstown is our groundwater.
Site plan review requirements and other best available control technology requirements, that are included in North Kingstown’s Groundwater Overlay Zoning Ordinance, apply to both overlay zones, and the differences in the protection requirements are minimal.
The truth is that numerous recent changes to the ordinances that govern our water supply have been successful in reducing the stress to our water supply:
These changes have all made a difference and we, as a community, are using less water during the peak summer period when supply can truly get stressed. Peak water demand is significantly lower than the 2005 peak, but residential water demand still exceeds the 65 gallons per capita, per day goal set in the Rhode Island Water Use Efficiency Act.
New Water Service Area Designations
Additionally, changes made recently to the Town’s identified “Water Service Area”, which corresponds to locations where new water mains may be allowed, has been able to help us rein in uncontrolled growth that our water distribution system could not support. This, of course, is not to say that we should now “rest on our laurels”. The Water Department and the community need to continue our efforts and diligently act as good stewards for this, our most critical resource.