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Berkeley County water levers holding steady

September 26, 2002|by CANDICE BOSELY

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Eight inches of precipitation are needed to get the area back to normal water levels and out of a drought, National Weather Service Meteorologist Michelle Margraf said.

Until those 8 inches fall, Berkeley County residents are asked to voluntarily conserve water, since one of the county's three main water sources continues to provide half the amount of water that it used to, said Paul Fisher, executive director of the Berkeley County Public Service Water District.

"The situation hasn't gotten better, but it hasn't gotten worse," Fisher said Wednesday. "We're holding our own as we have since about May."


This drought - labeled a climatological drought by the National Weather Service - has been ongoing since 1999, Fisher said. Earlier this year was the worst, Fisher said, when, in March, "we came within three days of losing 40 percent of our water to customers in the southern part of the county."

Had water not been pumped from the Inwood quarry, some people would have been without, Fisher said.

Berkeley customers use 4 million gallons of water a day on average, Fisher said. The Potomac River and a large limestone spring in Bunker Hill, W.Va., provide much of it, while a spring in Hedgesville, W.Va. - which has decreased its flow by half - provides a much smaller amount, Fisher said.

Meanwhile, tropical storm Isadore, which wreaked havoc further south, could dissipate by the time it arrives here and provide some much-needed rain, Margraf said.

Rain is expected today and, thanks to whatever remains of Isadore, on Friday as well, Margraf said.

A heavy rainfall tends to produce an inch to an inch and a half, Margraf said, but sustained periods of rain are preferred because the chance of flooding is reduced.

As the nights grow colder and people haul out their winter clothes from storage, the chance of snow inches forward. An inch of snow equals one-tenth of an inch of rain, Margraf said, meaning even a heavy snowfall might not end the drought.

On average, the Martinsburg area receives about 40 inches of rain, much of that in the spring and summer, Margraf said. Since this time last year, 29 inches of precipitation has fallen, she said.

Not only does the area need those 8.2 inches, normal precipitation levels need to be reached.

"Every day we don't get rain, that number gets bigger," Margraf said.

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