William Ruxton is wrong about Virginia stealing water from Maryland [letters, Dec. 17]. The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) does not have sole claim to the water in the existing reservoirs.

Twenty years ago, the three major water utilities in the Washington area -- the Washington Aqueduct, serving the District, Arlington and parts of Fairfax County; the Fairfax County Water Authority; and the WSSC -- agreed to share the nearly $100 million cost of buying the water storage in the Jennings Randolph Reservoir on the North Branch from the federal government and building the Little Seneca Reservoir in Montgomery County to serve all their needs in time of drought. The Fairfax authority paid its share of the cost and is entitled to a share of any water released from these projects. The agreements provided that decisions as to when, and how much, water should be released would be made not by the utilities but by officials at the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin. Thanks to those farsighted actions, the area was spared water restrictions last summer.

In addition, all three utilities signed a legally binding "Low Flow Allocation Agreement" that ensures that in a drought so severe that the reservoir releases cannot meet the demand, each utility will receive a fair and equitable percentage of all available water based on historical need.

Further, the "polluted runoff" that Mr. Ruxton and others are concerned about is not confined to the Virginia side. At times the water quality at the intakes on the Maryland shore is just as bad, because of runoff emanating from the tributaries just upstream.

HARRY C. WAYS

Potomac

The writer was chief of the Washington Aqueduct from 1972 to 1991.

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Only a couple of months after a regional drought, David Snyder writes that the Potomac offers "abundant water" for utility companies ["Rural Community Wins Fight as Power Plant Pulls Back," Metro, Dec. 8].

Had it not been for billions of gallons drawn from upstream reservoirs, we would have really been in a fix. And the current drought is mild by historical standards, according to a Sept. 1 Outlook piece, "Dry, Dry Again."

Soon Frederick will be taking big gulps of the Potomac, and of course the Washington area continues to grow. The days of abundant water from the Potomac are over.

JOHN MATHWIN

Rockville