WILMINGTON, Del. -- Delaware authorities will be vigilant in watching for possible unauthorized withdrawals of water in the wake of a drought that has led to mandatory water conservation measures in the northern part of the state.
State officials say it would be difficult to discover if small amounts of water were taken from state waterways, but would notice large amounts.
In May, state officials learned that Delaware Park was pulling as much as 400,000 gallons of water a day from White Clay Creek without a permit. Delaware Park officials say they had been drawing the water for about 40 years, since before permits were required.
Delaware Park executives discovered they needed a permit only after assessing water needs for a planned golf course. General Manager Bill Fasy said he immediately informed state authorities and applied for a new permit.
``I don't think anyone is to blame here,'' Fasy said. ``It's just something that has been done for so long. It's one of those oversights.''
State water regulators have yet to discover who was draining millions of gallons of water from the Brandywine in May, however. The withdrawals showed up as fluctuations on automatic sensors.
State water experts last year began to take inventory of intake pipes along 300 miles of creeks in northern New Castle County, part of a larger environmental project.
The inspectors, who so far have covered about 80 miles of the waterways, are checking to see if a permit is on file for each intake valve they find, said Gerald Kauffman of the University of Delaware Water Resources Agency.
Inspectors conducting the inventory eventually would have discovered the water being drained by Delaware Park, Kauffman said.
Water officials say it's possible that other businesses could be tapping streams.
``I acknowledge the possibility of other uses out there,'' said David Small, spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. ``If they're there, we think they are very few in number.''
The automatic sensors on the Brandywine, and Red Clay and White Clay creeks exist to monitor water levels, not to prevent theft, said Daniel J. Soeder, Delaware chief for the U.S. Geological Survey.
The sensors would not register small amounts of missing water or water siphoned downstream from the sensors, he said.
The state has a limited number of inspectors to police the streams and depends on residents to complain, Small said.
``We have a program in place that is functioning well,'' Small said. ``We will be more vigilant in the drought situation.''
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