The James River Case Study

by Thomas J. Lochen, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Norfolk, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Water Management in the '90s: A Time for Innovation


The James River was selected as a case study for the National Drought Study because it provided an example of an Eastern (riparian) river basin with relatively little storage, increasingly complex uses, an increasing potential for conjunctive use of surface and groundwater and interbasin transfers, and water quality problems during drought. During a drought no worse than the 1988 national drought, cities in the basin had to implement mandatory curtailment plans with resultant job losses. In a bad drought, losses of cooling and processing water would cause shutdowns in industries which have already sharply reduced water use. Curtailment of outdoor uses of water would cripple many commercial enterprises. Our national security would be threatened by drought due to the presence of the largest naval base in the world, its ancillary facilities, and large installations representing the other branches of the defense sector. Finally, a severe drought would have serious impacts on the groundwater aquifer, leaving it susceptible to saltwater intrusion. This paper describes the process by which the James River Drought Preparedness Study (DPS) team developed a tactical drought contingency plan which defines roles and responsibilities, makes a judgment about how serious a drought to plan for, refines indicators and decision triggers, estimates the balance between water supply and demand, and explores strategic alternatives such as additional storage and a more comprehensive state water policy.

Subject Headings: Droughts | Water shortage | Water storage | Water resources | Water quality | Rivers and streams | Riparian water | Virginia | United States

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