In 2004, facing the reality that the urban water demand (serving the City of Charlottesville, Virginia and the urban areas of Albemarle County surrounding the City, including the University of Virginia) was approaching the available safe yield supply under drought conditions, the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority developed a new strategy for identifying a new water supply to safely provide for the future needs of the community. This new strategy led to ten public meetings (between September 2004 and September 2007), three joint board meetings that were also public, numerous updates to public bodies at every major step of the process, numerous meetings and conferences with state and federal regulatory agencies, and several engineering and environmental studies. By maintaining flexibility and listening to the community, the Authority’s and community’s work culminated in the selection of a new long-term water supply with unusually widespread community consensus in 2006 as well as significant support from the state and federal permitting agencies.
The goal of the Community Water Supply project was to obtain what is among the most complex and difficult achievements under any federal law: environmental permits to develop a public project within the "waters of the United States" as defined by the federal Clean Water Act and related state laws as further interpreted by significant case law. This goal was fully achieved with the issuance of a Water Protection Permit by the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in February 2008 and the issuance of a Department of the Army Permit by the United States Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) in June 2008. Officials representing permitting agencies applauded the Authority’s adherence to federal law within a local community of diverse interests, applauded its extensive public participation efforts, and applauded the development of an outstanding environmental mitigation plan.
In contrast to the broad public consensus and support for the water plan that prevailed among public comments in 2006, some citizens in the community later organized a loose coalition between 2008 and the present to oppose or seek modifications of the plan. Public officials were asked to re-address the plan, and in June 2008 both the Charlottesville City Council and Albemarle County Supervisors unanimously reaffirmed their support for the community’s 2006 plan. As public comments continued to indicate some division of interests among citizens, a joint boards meeting was held in November 2008 where additional engineering studies were requested that have now been completed. To many citizens and interest groups, the additional studies confirms the legitimacy of pursuing the 2006 approved plan, but to other citizens it suggests a need for change. Discussion as to whether to proceed with the plan as adopted in 2006 or to amend the plan is on-going.