More water is on its way to South Carroll, but the new water sources are designed to meet current demand, not spur development in Carroll County's most populous and fastest-growing area, officials said.
The county will move forward with a $14 million expansion to its water treatment plant in Eldersburg and drill a series of wells to augment the water supply, although officials said that developers should not rush to add more shops and homes to the public water system.
"They will have to get in line," said Douglas E. Myers, director of public works. "As soon as the new expansion opens, we can't have development floodgates open, too. We are developing a water allocation system."
Projects will fall into four categories for allocation, with public service buildings such as schools and senior centers receiving the highest priority.
Those will be followed by industrial and employment campus ventures. Once those projects have water reserved for them, the county Department of Public Works will allocate the remaining supplies to commercial development. Residential construction will be last in line.
Only projects that have won approval from the county Planning Commission are allowed to get into line.
"If a project is in the queue and water becomes available, the developer will have 30 days to execute a water agreement," said Frank Schaeffer, deputy director of public works. "We are not sure when we will have water to allocate, but we want to have a policy in place. It is nothing dramatic. Basically, if you are approved, you get in line."
After months of negotiations, the county and Baltimore City reached an agreement Feb. 16 that will allow Carroll to double the capacity of the Freedom Water Treatment Plant on the city-owned Liberty Reservoir.
The facility draws a daily average of about 2.3 million gallons of water from the reservoir. The plant then pumps treated water to more than 7,000 homes and businesses in Eldersburg and Sykesville.
County officials are meeting this week with their newly hired construction manager to begin the plant expansion, which is expected to take about three years to complete.
In the meantime, several new wells will help ease the crunch that has delayed development and often led the county to impose bans on outdoor water use during prolonged hot, dry spells.
Well construction is set for parcels on Springfield Hospital Center property, at the Raincliffe development and in Freedom Park.
At least two of those wells could be in operation this year and add as much as 500,000 gallons a day combined to the system.