Ten Mile Creek IS a Backup Drinking Water Source

Update- A new study has shown that in the 2002 drought, around 25% of the Potomac’s flow came from Little Seneca Reservoir and Ten Mile Creek. The idea that this is not a current and future water source for 4.3 Million doesn’t…hold water.

In an email to supporters, Pulte Homes (one of a few developers looking to start projects in the sensitive Ten Mile Creek watershed)  said the following:

“The lake is not an emergency drinking water supply. It’s a backup source of water for the Potomac River during times of severe drought. The Potomac is a drinking water source.”

What? That is one serious linguistic shell game. Pulte is just one of a number of people that seem either legitimately or intentionally confused about the importance of the Little Seneca Reservoir and Ten Mile Creek.Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words- like this sign at the edge of the reservoir (again, the fact that its called a “reservoir” should give you a clue that the water is being held for later use):

Not only are the reservoir and Ten Mile Creek part of our back-up drinking water supply serving 4.3 million metro area residents, but the reservoir is checked every year to be sure it can still be called upon to supplement our water supply, as this alert from the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin to the County Exec and Council made clear this summer.  In fact, water from the Reservoir had to be  used for drought abatement in 1999, 2002 and 2010. The Commission also reports that droughts will be getting a lot more common.

So that’s the Reservoir - what about Ten Mile Creek. When we say that Ten Mile Creek is the “Last, Best Stream” in the county, its not hyperbole. The creek is what is called a “reference” stream- a stream that is still pristine enough that we can compare degraded streams to it to see how bad off they are. As the first Council work session held yesterday showed, the draft planning board plan for development in the watershed would degrade Ten Mile Creek to the point that it will no longer be clean enough to serve as a reference- dirty just like the others. As one supporter asked, “can’t we just have one clean creek?”

So, how do we know that the proposed development will degrade the creek? Because the green parts on the right of the map below are not golf courses, that is the color of the water in our backup drinking water supply, as impacted by poorly planned development (click to see it bigger). Ten Mile Creek on the left, is still pristine and currently serves to dilute some of the degraded water. The point is- we have done this all before- the removal of forest cover, laying down impervious surface, and we can see the results.

We still have a pristine stream that serves 4.3 Million people and will only be more important in the future. The current proposals will impact our drinking water and that is why we are making so much noise.

The Council will decide on this in February- make sure they hear from you now.