While the Occoquan Reservoir continues to recede and water experts propose even more stringent conservation among its customers. Northern Virginia officials are hurriedly trying to find a solution to the crisis.
Proposals range from exploring whether the county's lakes could be tapped as a water source this fall and winter if the reservoir's level continues to drop to running an emergency pipeline from the Rappahannock River to Cub Run, a stream that feeds water into the reservoir.
Fairfax County Supervisor Marie B. Travesky (R-Springfield) says she wants to know if its practical to tap such bodies of water as Burke Lake and Lake Fairfax, both of which are owned by the Fairfax County Park Authority, the Fairfax County Water Authority, which owns the Occoquan, offered the proposal on the Rappahannock tap and John F. Herrity, chairman of the Fairfax supervisors, thinks the idea has merit. However, the Rappahannock proposal would have to be approved by the Virginia General Assembly.
Another proposal, made at yesterday's county board meeting by Supervisor Audrey Moore (D-Annandale), is for the authority to enter into a three-year water purchase contract with Manassas, which currently has a contract with the agency to supply a maximum of 1 1/2 billion gallons of water - about a 27-day supply for the 616,000 customers of the water authority.
In another proposal, Mrs. Moore urged that the water authority raise the height of the Occoquan dam by 5 feet to add 3 billion gallons of capacity to the reservoir.
The supervisors declined to endorse her specific proposals and instead passed a motion offered by Supervisor James M. Scott (D-Providence) asking the authority to investigate what could be done to alleviate a crisis that no one expected before the summer of 1979, at the earliest.
The problem is the inability of the Occoquan to stabilize even though the average daily water consumption of the authority's customers dropped from 63.4 million gallons in September to 55.3 million gallons for the first 24 days of October. The authority, by increasing outside purchases of water to about 17 million gallons daily, has been able to cut withdrawal from the reservoir to about 40 million gallons daily - but still the water level has continued downward.
A special team of experts from the National Weather Service, the Interstate Commission for the Potomac River Basin and U.S. Geological Survey yesterday urged the authority to cut the daily withdrawal from the Occoquan to 32 million gallons. The experts said the lower withdrawal, which would require an additional 15 per cent reduction in water consumption beyond the present restrictions on outside use, would substantially reduce the risk of drastic rationing.
The authority, upon receiving the report, immediately called on its customers in Fairfax Count, Alexandria and Prince William County to conserve more water inside their homes.
With the additional conservation urged by the team of experts - about 12 gallons a day per person - there is a "50 per cent chance" the emergency would be over with by early December, the authority said.
The reservoir level has fallen to yet another record low, 95 feet, 1 inch. just 7 inches from the level at which the emergency purchases from Manassas' reservoir would start.
While he had no specific proposals to make about the crisis. Fairfax Supervisor Alan H. Magazine (D-Mason) vented his frustrations to his colleagues.
"I can't think of another major issue that's been handled so poorly," he said. "And I'm part of the problem not the solution. I think it's disgraceful . . . I don't know what the answer is, but if we don't get our act together, we're going to have a real crisis - a dry Occoquan."
In a related development. Board Chairman Herrity said that Virginia Gov. Mills E. Godwin. Acting Maryland Gov. Blair Lee III and Secretary of the Army Clifford L. Alexander Jr. and he would meet next Wednesday at the Pentagon on the water authority's problems in getting a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers to tap the Potomac River.
Alexander has said that before the corps makes up its mind about the permit, he wants to see the agency, together with Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia, reach an agreement on how Potomac water would be divided if demand exceeds supply during the infrequent periods of low flow.