Test wells approved in Rock Gap
The Morgan County Commission approved using the remaining $18,000 of a $300,000 West Virginia Conservation Agency grant to drill
test wells in the Rock Gap
area. The approval for the
well drilling came at the
commission's November 2 meeting.
The test wells would determine the possibility of water in the area and whether it could meet the demands of a county public water system.
Neighboring well owners would be monitored during the testing, if surrounding property owners agreed. The Public Service Commission has the option of buying the property if the test drilling goes well, Rural Water Committee chairman Jack Soronen said.
Soronen wasn't sure when the test drilling would occur. He was working with Joe D. Michael from the West Virginia Conservation Agency and Public Service District manager Rodney Hovermale to select a well driller and proceed with the work.
First of three phases
The commission agreed to continue moving forward with the first phase of developing a county public water system along the northern part of the U.S. Route 522 South corridor. The Route 522 South corridor runs from Berkeley Springs to the Virginia line.
The WV Conservation Agency grant was used to
fund the Morgan County Rural Water Committee's survey of county water resources. Engineers from Gannett Fleming presented the findings of the Rural Water Committee water study to the commission
in March and made recommendations for a county water system.
The water study was done by the United States Geological Services (USGS) and the West Virginia Water Institute under the supervision of the Eastern Panhandle Soil Conservation District.
The Rural Water Committee recommended three phases of developing a county water system from their study: 1) the U.S. Route 522 South corridor; 2) an area along Route 9 East; and 3) the town of Great Cacapon.
At the commission meeting, Patti Miller expressed concerns about the Rock Gap well drilling. She said the morning water pressure in area wells
was very low. Soronen explained that Miller's low morning water pressure was from the community water system and not from her supply of water.
If 12 homes are supplied by one well, the water pressure would drop during peak times of usage such as the morning, he said.
Phil Spriggs raised the issue of the national and the international problem of the world
running out of water that is fit for drinking. The world population and demand for potable water is outstripping the supply, he said.
One site or more?
Commissioner Brenda Hutchinson and Commissioner Tommy Swaim wondered if they could explore other county sites for water at the same time if there was more money available. They could do one project and move on or do it all at once, but the costs escalate as time goes by, Hutchinson said. The commissioners decided to concentrate on the Rock Gap area first.
Commissioner Glen Stotler also raised the question of acquiring water rights for land purchases involved in the potential water system. Stotler felt that water was going to become an issue in the future and felt that acquiring water rights later on may be more difficult. Hutchinson agreed.
Swaim said that generally he was opposed to studies but felt that the county had learned a lot from the Rural Water Committee's water study.
"We got our money's worth," Swaim said.
Independent of town
The county's quest to find and develop water resources was independent of the town's water situation, Soronen said last week.
"It has never been the intention of the county to supplement or augment the town's system," he said.
From the very beginning, the county was concerned about what would happen if there was a temporary failure of the town's water system, Soronen said. What the county developed as water resources could help the town out in an emergency and temporarily tide them over, he said.
A couple of years ago the county approved the Public Service District to develop water resources in the county, but not in the towns, Soronen said. The unified water district led to better avenues for funding, he said.
It's very important to develop the U.S. Route 522 South water system to provide a system for economic development in the county, Soronen said.
Drought and well conditions
Morgan County is in a drought situation, along with other West Virginia counties. Soronen said there were many variables such as well depth, soil types and how well they hold water that could be factors in whether any wells could run dry during drought conditions.
Historically, there are probably some older county wells that are shallower that could have problems in periods of extreme drought like we've been in, especially with soils such as clay that don't transmit water well, he said.
It doesn't mean people have run out of water and may just mean they need a deeper well or a well in a better location, Soronen said.
Residents may also be using water faster than the water recharge rate and may need to be more conservative with water usage or buy bottled water for back-up. Conservation measures may be needed during a drought, Soronen said.
Learn about water problems
Little or no water at the faucet can mean low water pressure, scale build-up inside the pipes that reduces the water output, problems with the size of the water pressure tank and other issues, Soronen noted.
Soronen has been encouraging homeowners to educate themselves about the depth of their well and how much water is standing in their well. They should measure how much standing well water they have from time to time and see how turning on the faucet or flushing the toilet affects the well water level, Soronen said.
Watch if the water level goes down quickly or not or if it recharges quickly or slowly, he said. That speaks to the adequacy of the water system, Soronen said. Residents could have plenty of water, but their pump may not be developing enough pressure, their pipes may be too small or there could be other issues with their system, he said.
Ground water & snow
Recent rainfall has been good for the trees and surface plants but it hasn't really replenished the ground water, Soronen said.
Ground water is replenished more through snowfall than by any other mechanism, he said. When the leaves have fallen, the trees are absorbing less water, Soronen said. With snow, moisture has more of an opportunity to soak into the ground.
"We all need to be hoping for snow," Soronen said.