Berkeley Co. residents asked to cut water use

October 24, 2007|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Worsening drought conditions have prompted leaders of Berkeley County's public water service this week to ask customers to use less water to bathe or shower and flush toilets, and to implement other conservation measures.

"We want them to voluntarily conserve water until we make up for an 8-inch deficit of rainfall this year," said Paul Fisher, executive director of the Berkeley County Public Service Water District, which serves about 46,000 residents. The district's request does not apply to residents in Martinsburg, who are served by a municipal system that is fed by different sources than the county.

Martinsburg City Manager Mark Baldwin said Tuesday that water levels at the city's Big Springs and Kilmer Springs have dropped, but not to a point where conservation measures need to be implemented.

"Our levels are still adequate at this time," Baldwin said.

The county's decision to implement the first stage of its Drought Contingency Plan for the second time since 2002 was made by the district's board of directors.


Fisher said three of four parameters needed to trigger the voluntary conservation announcement have been met and the fourth, the decreasing water level of a well at Glenwood Forest subdivision was "not far behind," Fisher said.

In Bunker Hill, W.Va., flows at LeFever Spring have become nonexistent and pumping from Baker Lakes quarries is required to satisfy demand, Fisher said. Near Hedgesville, W.Va., overflow has decreased to a similar level at Ben Speck Spring and water must be supplied from the Potomac River plant to satisfy demand. Maryland's declaration of a drought watch for the central Maryland region, which also uses water from the Potomac River, also factors into the voluntary conservation request, Fisher said.

According to the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor report released Thursday by the National Drought Mitigation Center, "moderate" drought conditions were measured in most of Berkeley County and western Jefferson County. The remaining eastern portion of Jefferson County was experiencing "severe drought" conditions. Morgan County was shaded on the Monitor's map as an "abnormally dry" area, according to the report.

Developed in 1999, the U.S. Drought Monitor's scale also includes "extreme" and "exceptional" drought intensity levels, which are worse than Jefferson County's current condition.

Fisher said substantial voluntary participation in the district's conservation plan would help delay implementing mandatory water restrictions, which include prohibitions on ornamental water uses, and the serving of water in restaurants.

The request by Berkeley County's public service district comes after Jefferson County Commissioners last week urged residents to conserve water.

County Commissioner Greg Corliss said Tuesday that the commission this week is expected to consider adopting a volunteer well monitoring program to help officials monitor the water table in the county's watersheds in an effort to better determine how drought and other weather conditions affect them.

"We are very concerned about what's happening," Corliss said.

On the Web

· Berkeley County Public Service Water District:

· U.S. Drought Monitor:

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