The Warm Springs today
In the April 10, 2002 edition of The Morgan Messenger, reporter Carol Reece wrote the Warm Springs at Berkeley Springs State Park were running at an all time low.
This was confirmed by measurements taken at the time by Tom Rosier, a hydrologic technician with the U.S. Geologic Survey.
Before the drought hit, Berkeley Springs Water Works had been pumping 720,000 gallons a day, or 500 gallons per minute, from the springs to supply its customers. During the drought, the Water Works could only pump 380 gallons per minute.
Park Supervisor Mike Didawick said there was a limitation put on the amount of water people could take from the park.
Park Superintendent Chris Hansroth remembered the limitation was five gallons per vehicle.
Asked about limits on commercial vehicles he said, “I don’t believe there was any commercial activity at that time.”
County commissioners, town and park officials and representatives from the West Virginia Public Service Commission were on hand to watch Rosier take his measurements.
All were concerned about the health of the springs.
“We can’t continue using the water at the present rate if the aquifer is drying up,” county commissioner Glen Stotler warned.
Mayor Susan Webster said the town may have to rethink its position on supplying water to the county.
Jack Soronen, president of the Rural Water Committee, said the results of the flow measurements were pretty much as he expected, “But I am happy to see the town and city and state talking to each other and making plans for the future.”
As often happens in nature, dramatic events run in cycles and the drought eventually eased during the fall and winter months and so did talk of the Warm Springs drying up.
Ten years later
J.J. Steiner, a 35 year employee at Berkeley Springs State Park, said over the years he kept track of the water in the springs by watching the level of water in George Washington’s bathtub.
“The spring running into George Washington’s bathtub is the highest level spring in the park. Anytime there is a change in the water level, we see it first in the bathtub,” Steiner said.
He pointed out George Washington’s bathtub is currently running over into its overflow pipe.
Although the park has no equipment to take measurements and no record is kept of water levels and flow, Steiner said, “In my opinion, I think the level of the springs is back to where they used to be.”
Water pumped from springs
Chief Water Operator Terry Largent said the Water Works now pumps an average of 500,000 gallons a day from the springs.
That figure is down significantly from 10 years ago because of the two water line replacement projects completed over the last several years.
“We were pumping six to seven hundred thousand gallons a day before the water line projects,” Largent said.
Didawick said there are no restrictions on water taken from the park by individuals or commercial vehicles today.
“The springs are in pretty good shape,” Hanroth said.
Who needs equipment?
Steiner tells a story about the time when Rosier was at the park measuring the flow:
He told county commissioner Tommy Swaim he could predict what the results of Rosier’s measurements would be.
Swaim said he didn’t believe it. So Steiner began by measuring the cubic feet of water from the springs as it runs down an area of concrete channel near the old bath house.
He then tossed a plastic fishing bobber into the channel and timed it as it passed through the measured area.
Steiner used simple mathematics to calculate the number of cubic feet or water flowing through the area at 754 per minute.
When Rosier finished his measurements and calculations using scientific equipment, his number came to 725.
“I was pretty close. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure it out,” Steiner said.