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Official says drought conditions could worsen

May 02, 2002|BY DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Based on the latest long-term weather forecast, the drought gripping the area could get worse, a Berkeley County water official said Wednesday.

Although rainfall this spring has been about normal, the most recent long-term forecast from the National Weather Service calls for a drier-than-normal summer, said Bill Stubblefield, a member of the board of directors of the Berkeley County Public Service District.

Next fall is expected to bring normal rainfall, but next winter is expected to have below-normal rainfall, Stubblefield said.

Although such long-term forecasts can easily change, Stubblefield said he fears the drought is "going to get worse before it gets much better."

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Stubblefield made the comments in Charles Town during a meeting of state and local officials who deal with water issues. The meeting was held to begin addressing water needs facing the region.

Although the drought has been a pressing issue, officials at the meeting discussed problems that have been looming for some time in Jefferson County.

A hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey highlighted contamination problems in the county's well water that have been known for more than 20 years.

In a 1981 study, 192 wells were sampled in the county and some showed high levels of nitrates, said hydrologist Mark Kozar.

There seems to be enough well water for residential use in Jefferson County, although that could change if residential, industrial and agricultural demand for water sharply increases in the county, Kozar said.

There are alternative water sources in the county that water authorities could consider tapping into, including buying water from the City of Charles Town or the Potomac River, said Paul Pritchard, chairman of the Jefferson County Public Service District.

So far, the drought has not caused problems in Jefferson County. Water saving measures have been implemented in Berkeley County, but none have been called for in Jefferson County.

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