No water flows into Augusta County; it all flows out. That water, from streams, springs, and wells across Augusta’s 967 square miles constitutes the headwaters of the James and Shenandoah rivers along with a small part of the Potomac River. In other words, when people turn on their taps in Richmond and Washington, D.C., they are sipping a little bit of Augusta County’s most important natural resource.
Having such an abundance of water is a powerful gift and an awesome responsibility. That water fuels the lives and livelihoods of the citizens of Augusta, Staunton, and Waynesboro and far beyond. But when that water leaves the boundaries of Augusta, its quality lies in the hands of those who sent it downstream.
It was that responsibility that drove the Augusta County Service Authority to team up with the Augusta County Board of Supervisors in 2011 and adopt one of the most powerful source water protection ordinances in Virginia. The development of the ordinance earned a special award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The ordinance created Source Water Protection Overlay Districts around 23 public water supplies “to protect public health, safety and welfare by preventing adverse impacts due to contamination of water or loss of water in aquifers which currently serve as groundwater supply sources.”
The ordinance map designates two boundary areas around public springs and wellheads. Area 1, a 1,000-foot fixed radius around the springs and wellheads, allows no new construction and bans 23 operations, such as asphalt processing plants and dry cleaning establishments, that have the potential to impact groundwater quality and quantity. Area 2, expanding beyond the 1,000-foot radius, represents groundwater recharge areas for the springs and wellheads. In Area 2, injection wells and junkyards are banned outright, while other uses are allowed only by special administrative permit.
Having this ordinance in place for public water sources has given the Augusta County Board of Supervisors and the Augusta County Service Authority the ability to weigh in on inappropriate development within the county—be it a high-density residential development or the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. In the case of the latter, Dominion has been forced in several instances to reroute its high pressure natural gas pipeline out of the source water protection areas.
Pictured above: Retired Executive Director of the Augusta County Service Authority, Ken Fanfoni, looks at one of the data maps used to create the boundary areas for the Source Water Protection Overlay Districts.