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Berkeley County, W.Va., eases water restrictions

May 14, 2002|BY SARAH MULLIN

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

An increase in precipitation over the last two months has prompted the Berkeley County Public Service District water board to ease up on water restrictions for its customers.

The board voted unanimously on Monday to implement voluntary water conservation measures, replacing the mandatory water restrictions the district has been observing for more than three months. Mandatory restrictions prohibit all nonessential water uses.

Paul Fisher, executive director for the district, said other reasons for the step back into Phase 1 of the Drought Contingency Plan include additional water received from a privately owned quarry in Inwood, W.Va., and the closing of the World Kitchen plant, also in Inwood.

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"We're not out of the woods yet, but we're headed in the right direction," Fisher said.

Voluntary conservation measures include not serving water in restaurants unless requested, reducing the number of toilet flushes, taking shorter showers, repairing leaks in faucets and toilets, eliminating noncommercial automobile washing unless using a bucket or other container not exceeding three gallons, using automatic washing machines and dishwashers only with full loads, and eliminating the washing of streets, sidewalks, driveways and parking lots.

Fisher said the district has been able to pump 50 to 200 gallons a minute into the Baker Lakes quarries, which were taken off line in April, because of the water supplied by the Inwood quarry.

The district, which serves about 30,000 residents of the county, has an 18-month agreement with the owner, D.L. Morgan, to use the water for free.

Board members Bill Stubblefield, Wayne Dunham, Bruce Dorsey and Howard Collins agreed the district should consider relaxing all restrictions, even voluntary ones.

Stubblefield said he was concerned that residents will become overly cavalier, adding that in the future, water users may not heed the district's need for more serious water restrictions.

Dunham said it is in the district's best interest to sell the water now that it is available.

"We're in the business of selling water," he said.

Due to the water conservation measures and the closing of World Kitchen, the district has seen a decrease in revenue.

A budget report presented by Fisher noted that the district's cash budget has expenditures exceeding revenue by about $40,000.

But forecasts are calling for a dry summer, board chairman Bill Alexander said.

"It's important to state clearly we have not begun to recharge our groundwater supply. We are doing OK in our water supply but traditionally in July and April we dry up," he said.

Board members eventually agreed to implement the voluntary water conservation measures because of the forecast of a dry summer and the need to replenish groundwater levels.

District water users may be under mandatory conservation measures if the precipitation levels once again drop below normal, Alexander said.

All board members commended the district's water users for their conservation efforts.

"We (were) in a bad situation, and they stepped up to the plate. A big thanks to the public," Dunham said.

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